Rebecca U Thorpe
POL S 202
Institutions and politics in the American political system. Ways of thinking about how significant problems, crises, and conflicts of American society are resolved politically. Offered: AWSpS.
This course is designed to introduce students to the structure of American government and the political ideals that inform this structure. In the first part of the course, we will explore a fundamental tension between two central commitments in American life: democracy (or majority rule) and individual rights. Is the government’s most important responsibility to respond to the majority’s will, or is it to protect the rights of individuals? In part two of the course, we will examine the formal and informal institutions of American government. In part three we will examine several policy dilemmas that our political system has generated, including various biases that disadvantage youth voters, a historically unprecedented national security establishment and a harsh and degrading system of criminal punishment.
Student learning goals
students will acquire a basic understanding of the US constitutional structure, political institutions and public participation in government
students will learn about the interplay between the legislature, the presidency and executive departments, an independent judiciary and an increasingly diverse American populace
students will gain a general understanding of the role of decentralized electoral systems, campaign money, political parties, interest groups and media
students will learn how the structure of American government promotes certain policy dilemmas, including the current debates about student loans, national security, and crime and punishment
General method of instruction
lecture & discussion sections
Class assignments and grading
One response paper, two midterm exams, a final exam and participation in sections