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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Rebecca U Thorpe
POL S 202
Seattle Campus

Introduction to American Politics

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.

Class description

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

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading

One response paper, two midterm exams, a final exam and participation in sections


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Rebecca U Thorpe
Date: 07/27/2013