John D Wilkerson
POL S 353
Organization and procedure of Congress, state legislative politics, lobbying, legislative roles, theory and practice of representative government.
Description: Congressional decisions are products of two distinct but interrelated political arenas. The first is the election arena. The second is the lawmaking arena. In this course, we learn about both through readings, research, and a full term legislative simulation. In the process, we will come to more fully appreciate the task that legislators face in achieving consensus in light of their obligations to represent very different constituencies, and in light of the frequent tension between getting reelected and serving the interests of constituents.
Student learning goals
Appreciation of the role of Congress in lawmaking and society. How the institution works, and why it does not work as well as we might hope.
Appreciation of the legislative process, its logic, and potential implications of reforms
Appreciation of how goals, interests and interpersonal factors shape legislative behavior and outcomes
Improved communication skills, both in writing and public speaking
General method of instruction
Combines traditional lecture-based learning with a full term legislative simulation.
This class is for students who would like to actively participate in a full term simulation. If this does not appeal to you, please do not take this class!
Each student subscribes to the simulation website (www.legsim.org, $16). Three books are also required:
Eric Redman Dance of Legislation (paper) ISBN-10: 0295980230 ISBN-13: 978-0295980232
Lee Hamilton How Congress Works and Why You Should Care (paper) ISBN-10: 0253216958 ISBN-13: 978-0253216953
Robert G Kaiser Act of Congress: How America's Essential Institution Works, and How It Doesn't (paper) ISBN-10: 0307744515 ISBN-13: 978-0307744517
Class assignments and grading
The assignments generally ask students to make connections between research on congress and what is happening in the simulation. For example, when students request their committee assignments, they are asked to explain their requests in terms of what they have learned about the committee assignment process in Congress. This would include how the process works, and the considerations influencing members' requests.
Frequent assignments (typically in essay form) that connect the readings and simulation activities. Participation and effectiveness are weighted in overall grades. There is no final examination.