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
Better appreciation of the role of Congress in lawmaking and society
Better appreciation of the importance of the importance of information and agenda setting in decision-making
Improved personal communication skills, both in writing and public speaking
Better appreciation of the goals and constraints shaping legislative behavior (esp. electoral)
Better appreciation of the legislative process, its logic, and potential implications of reforms
Improved skills in terms of planning and executing a strategy, and awareness of the importance of adaptability to changing circumstances
General method of instruction
This course combines traditional lecture-based learning with a full term legislative simulation.
Required books: Eric Redman, Dance of Legislation; Bob Graham, America: The Owner's Manual.
In addition, at the beginning of the course each student subscribes to the simulation website (www.legsim.org, $16).
Students should only take this class if they are interested and willing to participate in a simulation (inside and outside of class) over much of the quarter.
Class assignments and grading
The assignments in this class have two main purposes. The first is to encourage students to gear up to become effective legislators. This entails demonstrating knowledge of required readings AND an ability to relate those readings to simulation activities. The second is to demonstrate legislative competence, whether this entails drafting a bill or reporting on your legislative accomplishments over the semester, and why you should be reelected.
There is no midterm of final in this class. There are frequent assignments (typically in essay form) that draw on the readings and simulation activities. In addition, participation and effectiveness are weighted in overall grades.