American Government

Course Details

Course Number
POLS 1333
Section Number
POLS 1333
Fall 2014
O'Donohoe Hall
Classroom Number
Days & Times

FALL 2014

Instructor:  Suguman Narayanan Ph.D.

Class Meets at: PY 200
Time:   TR 2.00-3.20 pm and 6.00-7.20 pm

Office Hours:  T:  1.00-2.00 pm; 5.00-6.00 pm; 7.20-8.20 pm
W: 4.00-5.30 pm; 8.20-9.20 pm
R:  1.00-2.00 pm; 5.00-6.00 pm; 7.20-8.20 pm
F:  4.00-5.30 pm
Office Location: Room 201 O’Donohoe Hall

Official Homepage:

Course Description
This is the first of two parts of the introductory course to the study of American Government. This is a course in American politics where all areas of the study of American politics will be covered separately but without losing the connection between them. What does the nation owe you?  What do you owe her?  Do you have a say in what government does?  This course examines a wide range of U.S. public policy issues with direct impact upon you as a political science student, citizen, consumer, and individual.  Specific topics and cases will be examined to stimulate a greater understanding of the complexity involved in the art and science of politics. This course will also briefly compare American government with governments of other countries. In examining both historic and current policy arenas, some basic questions will be employed:
• Role of democracy.  Are there limits? How are we different from other governments? What about Texas?
• The influence of history on the federal and state governments.
• The impact of federalism. Are other countries different? What about Texas?
• We have freedom of choice in elections. Then how come many of us are unhappy with elected representatives? 
• Who is leading whom? What is leading whom? Who is leading what? – Media, political parties, interest groups, public opinion, and elections.

Course Objectives
Upon completion of this course, students are required to have a grasp of the above. At the end of the course students are required to be able to identify key concepts and terms in American government.  Further, the student should exhibit an ability to apply these in explaining development within the field. In addition, students are also required to understand and analyze political events and trends. Hopefully, what has been learned may give you a better understanding of what happens in your everyday life, for example, when you pay taxes, when you elect representatives, the questions posed by political scientists, etc. The reading assignments should prepare you for higher level courses in political science and government. The writing assignment/term paper is designed to improve both your scholarly writing skills as well as research skills.

Required Texts

1. Open to Debate: An Introduction to US Government and Politics. By Joseph Braunwarth and Marcus Stadelmann NSS Press (This is a CD. Required to purchase new, unused CD only).

2. Government & Politics of Texas, A Comparative View. By Gary M Halter. La Edition. McGraw Hill Publishing.

3. Writing in Political Science: A Practical Guide. La Edition. Diane Schmidt. Pearson Longman Publishing Company.

Supplementary Texts
There are no supplementary texts for this class. This will be substituted with weekly reading materials which will be announced in class or sent to you via email. The instructor will recommend books, articles, and other reading materials (e.g. court cases) in the course of the semester.

Some Important Expectations
Each member of the class will show due respect for one another. Ideas may be challenged, but individual attacks are unacceptable. I will not tolerate rude and/or abusive language in class. A student who makes fun of the instructor directly or indirectly, for example, in the form of a slang or a jargon will be dealt with seriously.  I will also not tolerate any other unacceptable behavior in class, for example, the habit of talking to others when the instructor is talking, or while another student is engaged in a discussion with the instructor. I refer to any form of participation which are negatively distracting, inappropriate, or rude, negative participation. Students who commit negative participation are at risk of losing some of the total points and face other appropriate actions. Besides talking to others when the instructor is talking or when class discussion is going on, other examples of negative participations are sleeping in class, whistling, doing work not related to current class session, unnecessarily grinning, and unnecessarily giggling. If you are grinning or giggling when the entire class is not sharing a joke, you may be busy conducting negative non-verbal communication with other students, reading/sending text messages, or other undesirable conduct. In any case these behaviors are considered negative participation. It is impossible to list all disturbing behavior so it is naturally expected of you, as members of institutions of higher learning to understand what constitutes appropriate behavior or otherwise. Because there is a long list of negative behaviors, whenever there is a dispute on what constitutes negative participation, the instructor reserves the right to decide. In keeping with the theme of respect, all students must adhere to the code of academic conduct in order to maintain appropriate and acceptable conduct when class is in session (Please read the Student Handbook).

In addition, students are also required to understand the seriousness of plagiarism in the academic world. Failure to do so, as evidenced by plagiarism will result in a failing grade or more serious consequences. Other honor violations such as cheating and the like will also result in a failing grade or more serious consequences.

Note: No person will be discriminated based on age, race, religion, national origin, sex, or disability. (Any student with a disability certified by the University disability office should notify the instructor immediately for proper arrangements to be made).

Course Evaluation

Exam 1      30%
Exam 2      30%
(Please refer to “Important Exam Rules”
in my official homepage).

Attendance 20% You are allowed one absence. For every additional absence, 3 percentage points will be deducted from the overall attendance points. Attendance will be taken at random. If you are late or missed class, it is your responsibility to find out what announcements you missed. Although I sometimes repeat important announcements, it is solely your responsibility to find out missed information. The instructor is not responsible for repeating announcements already made in class, nor respond to emails about missed announcements. The instructor reserves the right to deduct attendance points for students who are late for class or enter and leave class while lecture is in session. You are at a risk of losing some of your total points if you are unable to provide a correct answer when asked in class or if you did not prepare for assignment/class readings for class discussions.

Term Paper/Other expectations 10% An assignment connected to literature review and bibliography for the writing of a scholarly paper. The objective is not to ensure ability to write an entire paper but the ability to understand search techniques, correct style of scholarly writing, avoiding plagiarism, etc.  Papers must adhere strictly to requirements- Page numbering, paper length, “Introduction” and “Conclusion”, scholarly style, stapled (not clips), and not late. Failure to follow this can result in either reduced paper grade or fail (Will be discussed in greater detail in class). Please refer to “Term Paper Rules” in my official homepage.

Online s: 10%

Participation: Participation is graded on a demerit point system. Students do not gain points for participation instead will lose points from the total points if they do not participate. An integral part of this class is discussion on movies/documentaries/news clips, on political issues and debates, and on assigned reading assignments. Failure to participate will result in loss of points.

Note: The instructor reserves the right to deduct points from the overall/total points for students who are late for class. The instructor reserves the right to deduct points from the overall/total points for students who violate any portion of class policies. The instructor reserves the right to deduct points from the overall/total points for students who fail to answer questions on reading assignments. Up to 50% of the overall/total points may be deducted for violations but any percentage of points may be deducted from attendance points or term paper points for violations. There may or may not be prior warning about losing points.   

Make-up exams will only be given if you miss an examination due to official reasons, for
example, a medical emergency, death of an immediate family member, a court order, or representing the university in official university events. Official proof is required. If your excuse does not fall under one of these categories, it is recommended that you produce a copy of a police report or the equivalent to prove the validity of the incident. It will be on a case-by-case basis. Official proof is required.

Course Overview

This serves as a general outline of the course topics and flow. You should expect some modifications. There will be video screenings of movies that have substantial political content. There may be a guest lecture in the middle of the semester. Another guest lecture may be somewhere around the end of the semester.

Week 1: Chapter 1: Introduction. What is politics? Government and its functions

Week 2: Ideologies: Democracy, Communism, Socialism, and Libertarianism.  Where are we in the continuum?

Week 3:            Chapter 11: The Legislature: The different legislative systems of the world.
                          Comparison with the American system.

Week 4:            Chapter 12: The Executive: The different executive systems of the world.
                          Comparison with the American system.

Week 5: Political Culture

Week 6: Guest Lecture

Week 7: Chapter 2: The U.S. Constitution.

Week 8: The U.S. Constitution as compared to the Texas Constitution. What are the main    differences and similarities.
  Chapter 8: Political Parties in the United States.

Week 9: Political Parties in the United States (cont’d). Parties in Texas

Week 10: Chapters 6, 9, and 10: Public Opinion, Elections, and the Media 

Week11:            Public Opinion, Elections, and the Media (cont’d)

Week 12: Chapter 7: Interest Groups

Week 13: The U.S. Judiciary. How is the American judiciary different from the
British judiciary.

Week 14: Judiciary (cont’d)
  Thanksgiving Break (November 26-28; return December 1).

Week 15: Chapter 5: Federalism.
  Overview/Make-ups/ 2 Review
  Last day of classes for all: Friday, December 5, 2014. Last day of class for    this class, Thursday December 4, 2014.

Week 16: Final Examination


Dr. Sugumaran Narayanan (view Profile)

Submission Format Policy

Note: You may not submit a paper for a grade in this class that already has been (or will be) submitted for a grade in another course, unless you obtain the explicit written permission of me and the other instructor involved in advance.

Plagiarism Policy

Plagiarism is the use of someone else's thoughts, words, ideas, or lines of argument in your own work without appropriate documentation (a parenthetical citation at the end and a listing in "Works Cited")-whether you use that material in a quote, paraphrase, or summary. It is a theft of intellectual property and will not be tolerated, whether intentional or not.

Student Honor Creed

As an MSU Student, I pledge not to lie, cheat, steal, or help anyone else do so."

As students at MSU, we recognize that any great society must be composed of empowered, responsible citizens. We also recognize universities play an important role in helping mold these responsible citizens. We believe students themselves play an important part in developing responsible citizenship by maintaining a community where integrity and honorable character are the norm, not the exception.

Thus, We, the Students of Midwestern State University, resolve to uphold the honor of the University by affirming our commitment to complete academic honesty. We resolve not only to be honest but also to hold our peers accountable for complete honesty in all university matters.

We consider it dishonest to ask for, give, or receive help in examinations or quizzes, to use any unauthorized material in examinations, or to present, as one's own, work or ideas which are not entirely one's own. We recognize that any instructor has the right to expect that all student work is honest, original work. We accept and acknowledge that responsibility for lying, cheating, stealing, plagiarism, and other forms of academic dishonesty fundamentally rests within each individual student.

We expect of ourselves academic integrity, personal professionalism, and ethical character. We appreciate steps taken by University officials to protect the honor of the University against any who would disgrace the MSU student body by violating the spirit of this creed.

Written and adopted by the 2002-2003 MSU Student Senate.

Students with Disabilities

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal anti-discrimination statute that provides comprehensive civil rights protection for persons with disabilities. Among other things, this legislation requires that all students with disabilities be guaranteed a learning environment that provides for reasonable accommodation of their disabilities. If you believe you have a disability requiring an accommodation, please contact the Disability Support Services in Room 168 of the Clark Student Center, (940) 397-4140.

Safe Zones Statement

The professor considers this classroom to be a place where you will be treated with respect as a human being - regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, political beliefs, age, or ability. Additionally, diversity of thought is appreciated and encouraged, provided you can agree to disagree. It is the professor's expectation that ALL students consider the classroom a safe environment.

Contacting your Instructor

All instructors in the Department have voicemail in their offices and MWSU e-mail addresses. Make sure you add your instructor's phone number and e-mail address to both email and cell phone lists of contacts.

Writing Proficiency Requirement

All students seeking a Bachelor's degree from Midwestern State University must satisfy a writing proficiency requirement once they've 1) passed the 6 hours of Communication Core and and 2) earned 60 hours. You may meet this requirement by passing either the Writing Proficiency Exam or English 2113. Please keep in mind that, once you've earned over 90 hours, you lose the opportunity to take the $25 exam and have no option but to enroll in the three-credit hour course. If you have any questions about the exam, visit the Writing Proficiency Office website at, or call 397-4131.

Campus Carry

Senate Bill 11 passed by the 84th Texas Legislature allows licensed handgun holders to carry concealed handguns on campus, effective August 1, 2016. Areas excluded from concealed carry are appropriately marked, in accordance with state law. For more information regarding campus carry, please refer to the University’s webpage at

If you have questions or concerns, please contact MSU Chief of Police Patrick Coggins at