Introduction to American Politics

Purpose of Course  showclose

This course will serve as an introduction to American government and politics. We will focus on several major themes in the course’s five constituent units. In the first unit, “American Political Foundations,” we will consider the core concepts and theoretical underpinnings of the American system of government: American political culture, the Constitution, and federalism. A solid grasp of these concepts will help you better understand the underlying reasons for the structure of the American political system. In the second unit, “American Political Behavior,” we will examine the key components of “politics” in the American system, including public opinion, the mass media, political parties, interest groups, campaigns, elections, and electoral participation. In the third unit, “American Institutions,” we will analyze the major governing bodies in the United States: Congress, the presidency and the bureaucracy, and the courts. Unit 4, “Civil Rights and Civil Liberties in America,” will highlight how American government shapes and influences the individual freedoms and rights of its citizenship. In our final unit, “Making Policy in the American Political System,” we will take a close look at social, economic, and foreign policy and the ways in which the broad themes of constitutional principles, political behavior, and governmental institutions have intersected to shape it. Upon completion of this course, you will have a strong understanding of the American political system and be well prepared for the courses you will be required to take should you choose to pursue the political science major.

Course Information  showclose

Welcome to POLSC231: Introduction to American Politics. General information about this course and its requirements can be found below.
 
Course Designer: Nicole Bartels
 
Primary Resources: This course is comprised of a range of different free, online materials. However, the course makes primary use of the following materials: You will be prompted to read sections of the last two resources (textbooks) throughout the course. You may choose to download the full text now and skip to the appropriate section as prompted by the instructions in the resource boxes, or you may simply download the specific sections of the text assigned as you progress through each resource box.
 
Requirements for Completion: In order to complete this course, you will need to work through each unit and all of its assigned materials. Although all of the units will allow you to gain a foundational understanding of American politics, pay close attention to Unit 1, as it will lay the historical framework for future units. You will also need to complete the following:
  • ACE Practice Tests (Chapters 1-20)
  • Unit 1 Current Events Challenge
  • Unit 2 Current Events Challenge
  • Unit 3 Current Events Challenge
  • Unit 4 Current Events Challenge
  • Unit 5 Current Events Challenge
  • Unit 1 Assessment
  • Unit 2 Assessment
  • Unit 3 Assessment
  • Unit 4 Assessment
  • Unit 5 Assessmen
  • Final Exam
Note that you will only receive an official grade on your final exam. However, in order to adequately prepare for this exam, you will need to work through the exercises and assessments listed above.
 
In order to pass this course, you will need to earn a 70% or higher on the Final Exam. Your score on the exam will be tabulated as soon as you complete it. If you do not pass the exam, you may take it again.
 
Time Commitment: This course should take approximately 164.25 hours to complete. Each unit includes a time advisory that lists the amount of time you are expected to spend on each subunit. These should help you plan your time accordingly. It may be useful to take a look at these time advisories and to determine how much time you have over the next few weeks to complete each unit, and then to set goals for yourself. For example, Unit 1 should take you 29.5 hours. Perhaps you can sit down with your calendar and decide to complete subunits 1.1 and 1.2 (a total of 18.75 hours) in week one; subunit 1.3 (a total of 8.5 hours) on Monday and Tuesday night of week two; etc.
 
Tips/Suggestions: This is an introductory course, so there is no prerequisite to help prepare you for the material covered. The course is important, however, to help prepare you for future upper level courses in the political science discipline, so be sure to pay close attention to all course material. To help make the most of your learning experience, it will be helpful to use the outlines and study guides at the beginning of each unit to take notes and guide you through the video lectures. Use these study aides to help prepare you for the final exam at the end of the course.

Learning Outcomes  showclose

Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to
  • explain the major purposes of government;
  • distinguish between different forms of government and democracy, underscoring the American political system;
  • differentiate between American political ideologies, particularly conservative and liberal, and attitudes about the scope of government;
  • analyze the roots of the American political system, the failure of the Articles of Confederation, and the adoption of the Constitution;
  • discuss the fundamental principles of the American political system, such as separation of powers, checks and balances, and federalism;
  • define the term public opinion and explain how it is measured in American politics;
  • define the major factors of political socialization in American society;
  • describe American political culture and values and discuss their connection to social and demographic characteristics;
  • describe how the media influences the American public and political behavior;
  • evaluate the role of the media in the American political system;
  • discuss the various modes of participation available to individuals in the American political system;
  • outline the evolution of suffrage in American political history;
  • compare political participation rates in different types of American elections (i.e. presidential vs. congressional) and in relation to participation rates in other democratic countries;
  • explain the role of political parties in the American political system;
  • trace the evolution of political parties in the United States;
  • compare the major ideological differences between the modern Republican and Democratic parties;
  • distinguish between different types of campaigns and elections, and evaluate the role of money in campaigns and elections;
  • explain the process of electing a president;
  • evaluate the role and strategies of interest groups in American politics;
  • account for the increase in and importance of interest groups in the American political system;
  • outline the history and structure of the Congress (House of Representatives and Senate);
  • analyze the factors that influence the outcomes of congressional elections;
  • explain the legislative process and how a bill becomes a law;
  • describe the importance and role of the committees in Congress;
  • compare procedural and organizational differences between the House and Senate;
  • analyze the sources of presidential power and how the powers of the president have evolved over time;
  • assess the role of public opinion polls and approval ratings and their impact on presidential power;
  • define the executive branch and the bureaucracy;
  • trace the evolution of the bureaucracy and bureaucratic reform;
  • assess the impact of the bureaucracy on public policy making;
  • outline the history and structure of the judicial branch;
  • explain the origins and importance of judicial review;
  • describe the nomination process for federal and Supreme Court judges and how it has changed over time;
  • evaluate the role and impact of the Supreme Court in American society;
  • distinguish between civil rights and civil liberties;
  • explain the history and importance of the Bill of Rights;
  • examine the rights protected under the First Amendment and key Supreme Court cases that have defined these First Amendment rights;
  • discuss the various viewpoints on the Second Amendment;
  • analyze the “right to privacy” and its origins, and discuss Supreme Court rulings on privacy;
  • explain the process of incorporation and extending the Bill of Rights to the states;
  • trace the history and outcome of the Civil Rights Movement;
  • differentiate between de jure and de facto segregation;
  • discuss the process of expanding civil rights to minorities and women;
  • evaluate the history and impact of affirmative action;
  • distinguish between different types of public policy;
  • describe the role of policy making and the main steps of the policy-making process;
  • explain theories of economic policy and their implementation in American politics throughout history;
  • discuss the budget process and key components included in the budget;
  • examine the major objectives and outcomes of US tax policy;
  • trace the history and development of social public policy in the United States;
  • assess the creation, evolution, and future of Social Security;
  • evaluate welfare reform and its impact on society;
  • evaluate federal education reform and the role of the federal government in creating education policy;
  • outline the key players and institutions in the foreign policy-making process;
  • discuss the history and current goals of US foreign policy; and
  • discuss the impact of globalization on US foreign and domestic policy.

Course Requirements  showclose

In order to take this course, you must:
 
√    have access to a computer;
 
√    have continuous broadband Internet access;
 
√    have the ability/permission to install plug-ins or software (e.g. Adobe Reader or Adobe Flash);
 
√    have the ability to download and save files and documents to a computer;
 
√    have the ability to open Microsoft files and documents (.doc, .ppt, .xls, etc.);
 
√    have competency in the English language;
 
√    have read the Saylor Student Handbook; and
 
√    have completed The Saylor Foundation's POLSC101: Introduction to Politics.

Unit Outline show close


Expand All Resources Collapse All Resources
  • Unit 1: American Political Foundations  

    The American political system is rich in history. In order to gain a comprehensive understanding of the American government, you will need to learn this history and recognize the ways in which it impacts the political landscape today.
     
    This unit will begin with a brief introduction to the course as well as a concise overview of the American political system. We will focus on broad-based questions and explore the defining characteristics of American government and political culture. Next, we will work to identify the origins of American republican democracy, learning how it developed and evolved into our current political system. Finally, we will conclude by examining the key aspects of the American Constitution and relate its design and development to the unique American political culture in place today.

    Unit 1 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 1 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 1.1 The Challenge of Democracy and the American Political System  
  • 1.1.1 The Purpose, Role, and Impact of Government  
    • Reading: Sociology: Understanding and Changing the Social World: “Chapter 10: Politics and Government”

      Link: Sociology: Understanding and Changing the Social World: “Chapter 10: Politics and Government” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read Section 1 on pages 460-473 of the chapter reading titled “Politics and Government.” Politics is essentially the exercise and use of power within a society. Various types of power are used within different political systems. This section provides a foundation for understanding the democratic form of government as practiced in the United States and countries around the world.
       
      Reading this section and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee.

    • Web Media: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “American Democracy and Scholarship”

      Link: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “American Democracy and Scholarship” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Use this PowerPoint as a reference as you watch the video lectures in this subunit and in subunit 1.1.3, titled “Introduction to Democracy I” and “Introduction to Democracy II.”
       
      Reading this presentation and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource has been reposted with the kind permission of Dr. Patrick Scott. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

    • Lecture: YouTube: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Introduction to Democracy I”

      Link: YouTube: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Introduction to Democracy I” (YouTube)
       
      Also available in:
      iTunesU (Lecture 1)
       
      Instructions: Watch this introductory lecture on democracy and American government from Dr. Scott’s podcast. The lecture will introduce you to the principle themes and topics that will be covered in this course, focusing on how democraticgovernment in the US compares to other democracies in the international system. Pay special attention to the connections Dr. Scott draws between course materials and real-world political activities and events. The first five minutes are specific to Dr. Scott’s course at Missouri State University. The content explained in the overview will be helpful; however, do not pay attention to the course requirements or assignments.
       
      Watching this lecture and taking notes should take approximately 45 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource has been reposted with the kind permission of Dr. Patrick Scott from Missouri State University and can be viewed in its original form here. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

  • 1.1.2 A “Unique” American System of Democracy  
    • Activity: A “Unique” American System of Democracy

      After watching the video in subunit 1.1.1, try to identify the elements of the American system that set it apart from other democracies around the world.
       
      Completing this activity should take approximately 15 minutes.

  • 1.1.3 Meanings of Democracy  
    • Lecture: YouTube: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Introduction to Democracy II”

      Link: YouTube: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Introduction to Democracy II” (YouTube)
       
      Also available in:
      iTunes U (Lecture 2)
       
      Instructions: Watch this introductory lecture on democracy and American government. In this lecture, Dr. Scott discusses some of the integral institutional structures and rules necessary for representative democracy to work in a manner that protects individual rights and liberties in the US. Take note of the distinction between politics and government.
       
      Watching this lecture and taking notes should take approximately 45 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource has been reposted with the kind permission of Patrick Scott from Missouri State University and can be viewed in its original form here. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

    • Optional Reading: Indiana University’s Civic Quotes

      Link: Indiana University’s Civic Quotes (iOS app)
       
      Instructions: If you choose to use this app, you will need to download the version appropriate to your mobile device. Note that the apps in this course are optional because there may be associated costs. No quiz or exam questions will be derived from this material, but these apps are still useful supplementary resources. Open the above app, which provides a large collection of notable quotations from US government leaders, both past and present, on democracy and government. Read the accompanying primary source images related to the person being quoted. You can also take a quiz from recent national standardized civics tests. This app is a useful companion piece to Dr. Scott’s lectures “Introduction to Democracy I” and “Introduction to Democracy II.”
       
      Reading through this app should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 1.1.3 − Quickfire Quiz”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 1.1.3 − Quickfire Quiz” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Answer these questions to assess your understanding of this subunit.
       
      Completing this activity should take approximately 15 minutes.

  • 1.2 The Constitution  
    • Web Media: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “The Constitution and the Founding”

      Link: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “The Constitution and the Founding” (PPT)
       
      Instructions: Use this PowerPoint as a reference as you watch the video lectures “The Constitution I” and “The Constitution II” below.
       
      Reading this presentation and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource has been reposted with the kind permission of Dr. Patrick Scott. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

    • Lecture: YouTube: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “The US Constitution I” and “The US Constitution II”

      Link: YouTube: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “The US Constitution I” (YouTube) and “The US Constitution II” (YouTube)
       
      Also available in:
      iTunes U (Lecture 3 and 4)
       
      Instructions: It is nearly impossible to gain an understanding of American government without a firm grasp of its origins and foundations as embodied in the Constitution. As the supreme law of the United States, it is empowered with the sovereign authority of the people by the framers and the consent of the states. The Constitution is the source of all governmental powers, and it provides important limitations on the government that protect the fundamental rights of United States citizens. Note that these lectures also cover the material you need to know for subunits 1.2.1-1.2.6
       
      Watching these lectures and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: The material above has been reposted with the kind permission of Patrick Scott from Missouri State University and can be viewed in its original form here. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

    • Reading: American Government and Politics in the Information Age: “Chapter 2: The Constitution and the Structure of Government Power”

      Link: American Government and Politics in the Information Age: “Chapter 2: The Constitution and the Structure of Government Power” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read Chapter 2 on pages 47-84 for a solid background on the events leading up to the first American political system, the principles embedded in the Constitution, and how the media depicts the Constitution and constitutional issues. The authors offer a unique perspective on government and politics and their relationship to media in the 21st century. Each chapter ties media to the particular institution, process, or policy area under study and presents the most common media depictions of its subject.
       
      Reading this chapter and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee.

    • Optional Mobile App: Librainia’s Federalist Era First-Hand American History

      Link: Librainia’s Federalist Era First-Hand American History (iOS app)
       
      Instructions: Open this optional app to view more than 30 primary source writings from prominent US statesmen during the years 1783-1803. Read the “first-hand” accounts related to the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution. Each account allows you to add personal notes and highlights within the document. Please note that there is a cost of $0.99 associated with this optional app.
       
      Reading through this app should take approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 1.2 − Quickfire Quiz”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 1.2 − Quickfire Quiz” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Answer these questions to assess your understanding of this subunit.
       
      Completing this activity should take approximately 15 minutes.

  • 1.2.1 Historic Underpinnings – Colonial Times and Independence  
    • Reading: The National Archives’ Charters of Freedom: “The Declaration of Independence: A History” and “The Declaration of Independence”

      Link: The National Archives’ Charters of Freedom: “The Declaration of Independence: A History” (PDF) and “The Declaration of Independence” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read both documents. The Declaration of Independence is a statement adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, which announced that the 13 American colonies, then at war with Great Britain, regarded themselves as independent states, and no longer a part of the British Empire. Instead, they formed a new nation – the United States of America. The interpretation of the Declaration of Independence has been the subject of much scholarly analysis. It justified the independence of the United States by listing colonial grievances against King George III, and by asserting certain natural and legal rights, including a right of revolution. Having served its original purpose in announcing independence, the text of the Declaration was initially ignored after the American Revolution. Since then, it has come to be considered a major statement on human rights. In addition, the Declaration is, in many ways, a statement of principles through which the United States Constitution can be interpreted.
       
      Reading these documents and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

  • 1.2.2 Early Government: The Articles of Confederation  
    • Reading: The Library of Congress’ “Articles of Confederation”

      Link: The Library of Congress’ “Articles of Confederation” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Read the commentary that accompanies the Articles of Confederation as well as the document itself. This site, and the supplementary links, especially the Atlantic Monthly article on the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation, provides important historical background for understanding the Articles and the development of the US Constitution. Adopted in 1781 during the Revolutionary War, the Articles created a loose confederation of 13 sovereign states with marginal formal central government power. The national government under the Articles proved to be very weak and the states sought more and more power sometimes in opposition to one another. The commentary explains some of the Articles’ most critical shortcomings, which eventually prompted the creation of a constitutional convention to address the weaknesses. As you read, pay particular attention to the treatment of the Bill of Rights throughout the early years of American political history.
       
      Reading this document and commentary should take approximately 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 1.2.3 The Constitutional Convention of 1787: Debates and Compromises  
    • Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “Constitutional Convention: Debates and Compromise”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Constitutional Convention: Debates and Compromise” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read this short article, which will provide you with some background information on the concerns that the Founding Fathers had before and during the Constitutional Convention and the compromises they were forced to make when creating the US Constitution.
       
      Although the Convention was intended to revise the Articles of Confederation, the intention from the outset of many of its proponents, chief among them James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, was to create a new government rather than fix the existing one. The most contentious disputes revolved around congressional representation, the nature of executive power, and the abolition of the slave trade. Most of the partisan lines among the delegates developed between large/small states and northern/southern states. After a four-month debate, what resulted was the United States Constitution, placing the Convention among the most significant events in the history of the United States.
       
      Reading this article should take approximately 1 hour.

    • Assessment: The Saylor Foundation’s “Comparing Constitutional Convention Plans”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Comparing Constitutional Convention Plans” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: During the 1787 Constitutional Convention, the most contentious disputes revolved around representation in Congress, how to structure executive power, and whether the federal judiciary should be chosen by the legislature or the executive branch. In addition to the overarching issue of slavery, most of the time during the convention was spent on deciding these issues.
       
      The majority of the delegates formed vocal factions to advocate for the best interest of their state, and put forth numerous plans that reflected their most pressing issues. The two most well-known proposals – the Virginia Plan and the New Jersey Plan – helped to create the parameters for intense debate and eventual, agreed upon compromises.
       
      For this assessment, you will compare the specific provisions outlined in the Virginia Plan, the New Jersey Plan, and the Great Compromise. Using this worksheet, write a short description on each plan’s proposed structure for the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government. Check your responses using this answer key.
       
      Completing this assessment should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.

    • Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 1.2.3 − Quickfire Quiz”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 1.2.3 − Quickfire Quiz” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Answer these questions to assess your understanding of this subunit.
       
      Completing this activity should take approximately 15 minutes.

  • 1.2.4 The Ratification Debate: Federalists vs. Anti-Federalists  
    • Reading: US Department of State: About America: The Constitution of the United States: J. W. Peltason’s “Ratifying the Constitution” and “The Bill of Rights”

      Link: US Department of State: About America: The Constitution of the United States: J. W. Peltason’s “Ratifying the Constitution” (PDF) and “The Bill of Rights” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read these short excerpts for some background information on the important role that the Bill of Rights played in securing ratification of the Constitution. Despite the several months spent debating and compromising on key aspects of the Constitution, some delegates were still unsatisfied with the final document. The ratification process divided many Americans into two opposing camps – the Federalists (who supported ratification) and the Anti-Federalists (who opposed it). The latter felt the national government would be given too much power at the expense of state governments and that, more critically, the Constitution provided no written guarantee of individual liberties (a “bill of rights”). The Federalists thought a listing of rights could be a dangerous thing. If the national government were to protect specific listed rights, what would stop it from violating rights other than the listed ones? Since we can’t list all the rights, the Federalists argued, it was better to list none at all. However, the Federalists finally relented when it became apparent that New York and Virginia – states whose participation would be critical under the new government – would withhold their approval of the Constitution pending inclusion of a Bill of Rights.
       
      Reading these selections and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

    • Reading: Founding Fathers: James Madison’s “Federalist No. 10” and “No. 51”

      Link: Founding Fathers: James Madison’s “Federalist No. 10” (HTML) and “No. 51” (HTML)
       
      Also available in:
      eText format in Google Books (Free)
       
      Instructions: Read “Federalist No. 10” and “No. 51,” two of the most famous Federalist Papers written by James Madison and among the most highly regarded of all American political writings. For No. 10, identify why he believes that the Constitution provides for a form of government that will control “factions” and fulfill the will of the people. No. 51 addresses the means by which appropriate checks and balances can be created in government, and also advocates a separation of powers within the national government. One of its most important ideas is the often-quoted phrase, “Ambition must be made to counteract ambition.” You can find the remainder of the Federalist Papers here.
       
      Reading these selections and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

    • Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 1.2.5 − Quickfire Quiz”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 1.2.5 − Quickfire Quiz” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Answer these questions to assess your understanding of this subunit.
       
      Completing this activity should take approximately 15 minutes.

  • 1.2.5 Constitutional Principles  
    • Reading: The US National Archives and Records Administration: “Constitution of the United States”

      Link: The US National Archives and Records Administration: “Constitution of the United States” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Read the original text of the Constitution that was signed by the convention delegates and was presented to the states for ratification on September 17, 1787. Begin with the Preamble (“We the People”) and then read Articles I through VII. The resource below provides a good companion piece for understanding the key principles embedded in the Constitution.
       
      Note: Sections that are hyperlinked have since been amended or superseded. The hyperlinks will take you to the text of the specific amendment.
       
      Reading this selection and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

    • Web Media: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: Lesson 5 – The Constitution.”

      Link: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 5 – The Constitution” (YouTube)
       
      Instructions: Watch this two-part presentation to learn the core principles and structure of the Constitution.
       
      Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 License. It is attributed to the Regents of the University of California, and the original version can be found here.

    • Assessment: The Saylor Foundation’s “The Constitution Guiding Questions”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “The Constitution Guiding Questions” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: The Constitution originally consisted of seven articles. The first three articles embody the doctrine of the separation of powers, whereby the federal government is divided into three distinct branches. The fourth and sixth articles frame the doctrine of federalism, describing the relationship between states and between the states and the federal government. The fifth article provides the procedure for amending the Constitution and the seventh article provides the procedure for its ratification. A closer look at the wording of the Constitution reveals how its framers successfully separated and balanced governmental powers to safeguard the interests of majority rule and minority rights.
       
      Using the Constitution of the United States, answer these questions about the original text, and then check your answers with this answer key.
       
      Completing this assessment should take approximately 2 hours.

      Terms of Use: The text of the Constitution of the United States is in the public domain.

  • 1.2.6 The Constitution Today: A “Living Document”  
    • Web Media: YouTube: The News Buckit: “Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Stephen Breyer on the Constitution”

      Link: YouTube: The News Buckit: “Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Stephen Breyer on the Constitution” (YouTube)
       
      Instructions: Watch this public presentation of Supreme Court Justices Scalia and Breyer. Their discussion outlines different philosophical views of the constitution. Justice Breyer sees the Constitution as a living document that should be viewed through the lens of contemporary politics and culture. Justice Scalia does not agree and is more inclined to view the Constitution less as a living document and more in terms of what the framers of the Constitution intended for each amendment. He believes it is a mistake to read the Constitution with too much consideration of contemporary cultural and political ideas and beliefs.
       
      Watching this presentation and pausing to take notes should take approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Reading: US Department of State: “An Adaptable Document”

      Link: US Department of State: “An Adaptable Document” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read this short excerpt on the Constitution’s worldwide influence. After the US Constitution was ratified in 1788, it soon became a benchmark for self-government and a model for many countries’ constitutions thereafter, including Poland, France, Spain, Portugal, and many Italian states. Interestingly, the US Constitution is the shortest written Constitution of any sovereign country in the world. This was, in many ways, an intentional effort by the Founding Fathers to provide the latitude necessary for future interpretation and amendments.
       
      Reading this selection and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

    • Optional Mobile App: Multieducator’s Constitution and Federalist Papers

      Link: Multieducator’s Constitution and Federalist Papers (iOS app)
       
      Instructions: This optional app includes the full text of the US Constitution with a clause-by-clause explanation of each section (including commentary on each of the 27 amendments). It also includes all 85 Federalist Papers for your reference.
       
      Reading through the Constitution section of this optional app should take approximately 2 hours.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Optional Mobile App: Ken Hunt’s United States Constitution

      Link: Ken Hunt’s United States Constitution (Android app)
       
      Instructions: This optional app displays the full text of the US Constitution. It also includes the biographies of the signers of the Constitution, the dates in which each state ratified the document, and a Constitution “timeline.”
       
      Reading through this app should take approximately 2 hours.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 1.3 Federalism  
    • Web Media: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Federalism”

      Link: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Federalism” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Use this PowerPoint as a reference as you watch the video lectures “Federalism I” and “Federalism II” below.
       
      Reading through this presentation and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource has been reposted with the kind permission of Dr. Patrick Scott. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

    • Lecture: YouTube: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Federalism I” and “Federalism II”

      Link: YouTube: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Federalism I” (YouTube) and “Federalism II” (YouTube)
       
      Also available in:

      iTunes U (Lectures 5 and 6)
       
      Instructions: Watch both these lectures on federalism. The first lecture is about 36 minutes, and the second lecture is about 48 minutes.
       
      Federalism is not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution, but it is one of the key principles that the document embodies, particularly in the way it allocates power between the national government and the states. Because the states were preexisting political entities in 1787, the US Constitution did not need to define or explain federalism in any one section. However, it often mentions the rights and responsibilities of state governments in relation to the federal government. The federal government has certain express powers (also called enumerated powers), which are powers spelled out in the Constitution, including the right to levy taxes, declare war, and regulate interstate and foreign commerce. In addition, the Necessary and Proper Clause, in Section 8 of Article I, gives the federal government the implied power to pass any law “necessary and proper” for the execution of its express powers. Other powers – reserved powers – are reserved for the people or the states. Federalism has evolved significantly since it was first implemented, and it continues to be the subject of intense academic, legal, and political debate.
       
      Watching these presentations and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: The material above has been reposted with the kind permission of Patrick Scott from Missouri State University, and can be viewed in its original form here. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

    • Reading: American Government and Politics in the Information Age: “Chapter 3: Federalism”

      Link: American Government and Politics in the Information Age: “Chapter 3: Federalism” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read this chapter on the federalist system of government in the US on pages 84-119. The US Constitution outlines a federalist system of government in which the powers of government are divided among national, state, and local governments. Each of these levels of government has its own power and responsibilities. Note that, in theory, state governments cannot make laws that conflict with the laws the national government makes.
       
      Reading this chapter and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour.
       
      Terms of Use: This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee.

    • Reading: Founding Fathers: Alexander Hamilton’s “Federalist No. 16” and “No. 17” and James Madison’s “Federalist No. 39”

      Link: Founding Fathers: Alexander Hamilton’s “Federalist No. 16” (HTML) and “No. 17” (HTML) and James Madison’s “Federalist No. 39” (HTML)
       
      Also available in:
      eText Format in Google Books (Free)
       
      Instructions: Read one of the listed Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, either No. 16 or No. 17, and read James Madison’s No. 39. Hamilton’s Nos. 16 and 17 were two of six topics in the Federalist Papers to directly address the failures of the Articles of Confederation. Within this context, Hamilton argues the need for a strong national government to unify the country, and seeks to address concerns that the proposed Constitution will lead to tyranny. No. 39, written by James Madison, strikes a more conciliatory tone towards the federal aspects of the government – remember, Hamilton only expounds on the national aspects. He believes that only a republican form of government can carry forward the principles fought for in the Revolution and demonstrates that self-government is both possible and practical.
       
      Reading these selections and taking notes should take approximately 2 hours.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

    • Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 1.3 − Quickfire Quiz”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 1.3 − Quickfire Quiz” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Answer these questions to assess your understanding of this subunit.
       
      Completing this activity should take approximately 15 minutes.

  • 1.3.1 Defining Federalism  
  • 1.3.2 Federalism in Practice  
  • 1.3.3 Federalism, Ideology, and Policy  
    • Reading: Congressional Research Service: Eugene Boyd and Michael K. Fauntroy’s “American Federalism, 1776 to 2000: Significant Events”

      Link: Congressional Research Service: Eugene Boyd and Michael K. Fauntroy’s “American Federalism, 1776 to 2000: Significant Events” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Since the ratification the Constitution, which established a union of states under a federal system of governance, two questions have generated considerable debate: What is the nature of the union? What powers, privileges, duties, and responsibilities does the Constitution grant to the national government and reserve for the states and for the people? The answers to these questions have been debated time and again, having shaped and been shaped by the nation’s political, social, and economic history.
       
      The authors of this selection identify several significant eras and events in the evolution of American federalism over a 200+ year period and provide a capsule description of each.
       
      Reading this selection and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

    • Assessment: The Saylor Foundation’s “Everyday Federalism”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Everyday Federalism” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: The US Constitution establishes a government based on federalism – the sharing of power between the national and state (and local) governments. The federal government’s powers are enumerated in the Constitution, while the states are granted certain “reserved” powers. Although they are not mentioned in the Constitution, there are nearly 90,000 local governments throughout the United States. Local governments have a wide variety of powers and responsibilities – overseeing hospitals and libraries, police and fire protection, water supply, sewage, refuse collection and disposal, building construction rules and lighting streets to name just a few.
       
      The two major reasons for having several levels of government are scale and power. Each level of government deals with issues that are appropriate to its scale, or size. For example, the federal level deals with national security and the declaration of war – issues that affect all of the people in the nation. The local levels deal with the upkeep and repair of streets – an issue that is only important to the people who live in that area. Another reason for adopting a federal system is that it is designed to distribute, or break-up, power and authority. This structural feature of government is designed to protect the people against the whims of one all-powerful ruler.
       
      As a result of our federal system, most Americans do not realize the prevalence of government in their everyday lives. The below story was formulated by the National Conference of State Legislators. Read through this story and identify the level of government – federal, state, or local – that would most likely deal with each of the items that are underlined. (Some items may involve more than one level of government). Check your responses with this answer key.
       
      Compl
      eting this assessment should take approximately 1 hour.

  • 1.3.4 Federalism and Electoral Politics  

    The political parties stand for different principles with regard to federalism. Democrats prefer policies to be set by the national government. They opt for national standards for consistency across states and localities, often through attaching stringent conditions to the use of national funds. Republicans usually decry such centralization and endorse giving powers to the states and reducing funds for the national government.

  • 1.3.5 Federalism in the Information Age  
  • Unit 1 Current Events Challenge  
  • Unit 1 Assessment  
    • Assessment: The Saylor Foundation’s “Unit 1 Assessment”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Unit 1 Assessment” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Complete the linked assessment. You must be logged into your Saylor Foundation School account in order to access this quiz. If you do not yet have an account, you will be able to create one, free of charge, after clicking the link.
       
      Completing this assessment should take approximately 45 minutes.

  • Unit 2: American Political Behavior  

    The diverse American public is a major component of the American political system. Politics touches the lives of all Americans – voters, politicians, the young, the old, and everyone in between. Political scientists are extremely interested in studying how the public participates in the American political system. This unit will explore the various areas of political behavior and their influence on American politics. We will also discuss some more general subtopics that pertain to the American public and its role in the political system, including public opinion, the media, political participation, political parties, campaigns, elections, and interest groups. To fully understand American democracy, you must consider how these concepts have changed over time and how they continue to influence politics in America today.

    Unit 2 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 2 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 2.1 Public Opinion and Political Socialization  
    • Reading: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Student Study Guide #2: American Political Behavior”

      Link: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Student Study Guide #2: American Political Behavior” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read over this brief list of questions, all of which will be addressed in Unit 2. You should use it as a guide before each subunit to help you determine some of the most important material to be covered. At the end of the unit, use it as a resource to review important terms and concepts.
       
      Reading this selection and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource has been reposted with the kind permission of Dr. Patrick Scott. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

  • 2.1.1 Defining and Measuring Public Opinion  
    • Web Media: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Public Opinion and the Media”

      Link: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Public Opinion and the Media” (PPT)
       
      Instructions: Use this PowerPoint as a reference as you watch the lectures “Public Opinion” and “The Media” below.
       
      Reading this presentation and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource has been reposted with the kind permission of Dr. Patrick Scott. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

    • Lecture: YouTube: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Public Opinion”

      Link: YouTube: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Public Opinion” (YouTube)
       
      Also available in:
      iTunes U (Lecture 8)
       
      Instructions: This lecture provides information pertaining to public opinion and political socialization. Public opinion is a complex phenomenon, and scholars have developed a variety of interpretations of what public opinion means. Political socialization helps define one’s public opinion in that it is a process by which people develop the attitudes, values, beliefs, and behaviors that are conducive to becoming good citizens. You’ll also learn from this lecture how many people’s understanding of the political world comes through their exposure to and interaction with the media.
       
      Watching his lecture and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour.
       
      Terms of Use: The material above has been reposted with the kind permission of Patrick Scott from Missouri State University, and can be viewed in its original form here. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

    • Reading: American Government and Politics in the Information Age: “Chapter 7: Public Opinion”

      Link: American Government and Politics in the Information Age: “Chapter 7: Public Opinion” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read this chapter on pages 241-277. It provides a comprehensive overview of public opinion – what it is, what it measures, and how it has evolved – in addition to making a case for the importance of public opinion in a democracy. Finally, the chapter takes on the increasingly complicated relationship between the media and public opinion.
       
      Reading this chapter and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes
       
      Terms of Use: This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee.

    • Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 2.1.1 − Quickfire Quiz”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 2.1.1 − Quickfire Quiz” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Answer these questions to assess your understanding of this subunit.
       
      Completing this activity should take approximately 15 minutes.

  • 2.1.2 Public Opinion, Polling, and Politics  
    • Reading: US Department of State: John Zogby’s The Long Campaign: “Political Polls: Why We Just Can’t Live Without Them”

      Link: US Department of State: John Zogby’s The Long Campaign: “Political Polls: Why We Just Can’t Live Without Them” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Public opinion polls are often used in order to gauge a candidate’s appeal to the public. Read the text to learn more about America’s fascination with public opinion polls and to discover how these polls influence elections. As a long-time pollster, the author aims to make a strong case regarding the need for polls, stating that they perform the important function of revealing the innermost thoughts, feelings, biases, values, and behaviors of the body politic. Do you agree or disagree with this claim?
       
      Reading this selection and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

    • Optional Mobile App: Gallup Inc.’s Gallup News

      Link: Gallup Ink’s Gallup News (iOS app)
       
      Instructions: This optional app makes available the latest polls on politics, the economy, national wellbeing, and the world. While reading/viewing the polls, keep in mind that public opinion is constantly changing, and that these polls offer only a snapshot of opinion, largely based on the top issues of the day. To help reinforce this point, also read some of the news articles, which are updated daily, on current events and public opinion.
       
      Reading through this optional app should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 2.1.3 Influences on Political Socialization  
  • 2.1.4 American Political Culture and Ideology  
  • 2.2 The Media  
    • Web Media: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “The Media”

      Link: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “The Media” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Use this PowerPoint as a reference as you watch the lecture “The Media” below.
       
      Reading this presentation and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource has been reposted with the kind permission of Dr. Patrick Scott. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

    • Lecture: YouTube: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “The Media”

      Link: YouTube: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “The Media” (YouTube)
       
      Also available in:
      iTunes U (Lecture 7)
       
      Instructions: The media has come to play a very important role in shaping our political system. In particular, broadcast media has significantly impacted the landscape of American politics ever since the first televised presidential debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon in 1960. In addition to the shape and power of the media, Dr. Scott also discusses whether Americans consider the media to be a trustworthy source of information. Many people question the objectivity of the news media and find much of it to be politically biased.
       
      Watching this lecture and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour.
       
      Terms of Use: The material above has been reposted with the kind permission of Dr. Patrick Scott from Missouri State University, and can be viewed in its original form here. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

    • Reading: American Government and Politics in the Information Age: “Chapter 1: Communication in the Information Age”

      Link: American Government and Politics in the Information Age: “Chapter 1: Communication in the Information Age” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read Chapter 1 on pages 8-47. The media, in particular the print media, have been called the “fourth estate” and the “fourth branch of government.” The news media are a pervasive feature of American politics and generally help define our culture. New communications technologies have made the media more influential throughout American society and serve as a link between politicians, government officials, and the public. The fact that political information can now be transmitted much more quickly and subjected to far more individual control has transformed the political information environment. New media formats, such as blogs, podcasts, and wikis, blend interpersonal interactions with mass communication. This chapter examines and discusses the current and rapidly changing political information environment and its impact on political behavior, processes, and government.
       
      Reading this chapter and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee.

    • Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 2.2 − Quickfire Quiz”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 2.2 − Quickfire Quiz” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Answer these questions to assess your understanding of this subunit.
       
      Completing this activity should take approximately 15 minutes.

  • 2.2.1 The Evolution of the Media in the United States  
    • Reading: Boundless: “The Muckrakers”

      Link: Boundless: “The Muckrakers” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Read this overview of early “investigative journalism,” known as “muckraking,” for an introduction to how media has historically influenced politics.
       
      Reading this article should take approximately 15 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. It is attributed to Boundless, and the original version can be found here.

    • Reading: US Department of State: David Vaina’s “New Media Versus Old Media”

      Link: US Department of State: David Vaina’s “New Media Versus Old Media” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Read this article to learn more about how new technologies have influenced the media and politics in our country. In the US, there has been a demonstrable shift from the people who produce the news to the people who consume it in the form of citizen-journalists and bloggers. As a result, citizens have far more choices – a phenomenon that has produced a very different political discourse.
       
      Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

    • Web Media: YouTube: US Department of State: “Elections: New Media: A New Era”

      Link: YouTube: US Department of State: “Elections: New Media: A New Era” (YouTube)
       
      Also available in:
      Adobe Flash
       
      Instructions: Watch this brief video clip on the evolution of the media in the United States, paying careful attention to the ways in which new media is allowing more individuals to participate in the “mass media.” Are the political implications of new media good or bad for democracy and American politics?
       
      Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

  • 2.2.2 Private or Public: Who Should Own the Media?  
    • Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “Introduction to the Politics and Policy of Media Ownership”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation's “Introduction to the Politics and Policy of Media Ownership” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read this introduction to the politics and policy of media ownership and consolidation.
       
      Reading this selection and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.

    • Reading: Washington College of Law: American University Law Review: Ben Scott’s “The Policy and Politics of Media Ownership”

      Link: Washington College of Law: American University Law Review: Ben Scott’s “The Policy and Politics of Media Ownership” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read this report. Ben Scott argues that the 2003 congressional decision to reverse a Federal Communications Commission ruling to deregulate the broadcast industry represented an important moment in the cross-section between politics and policy. Specifically, the policies and regulations that shape the media system became political issues for the American people. The author makes a number of significant points as to why this happened: grassroots pressure trumping corporate interests, the ability of a powerful political minority to up-end the process, and the unpopularity of media concentration among the American public. Finally, he argues that this transformative conflict will carry over into other key media issues for years to come.
       
      Reading this report and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource has been reposted with the kind permission of Ben Scott. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

  • 2.2.3 Regulating the Media  
    • Reading: Congressional Research Service: Angie A. Welborn and Henry Cohen’s “Regulation of Broadcast Indecency: Background and Legal Analysis”

      Link: Congressional Research Service: Angie A. Welborn and Henry Cohen’s “Regulation of Broadcast Indecency: Background and Legal Analysis” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: This report focuses on two prominent television events that placed increased attention on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the broadcast indecency statute that it enforces – the airing of an expletive by rock singer Bono during the 2003 Golden Globe Awards, as well as the “wardrobe malfunction” that occurred during the 2004 Super Bowl half-time show. It also discusses the legal evolution of the FCC’s indecency regulations, and provides an overview of how the current regulations have been applied. While reading the report, consider the various court rulings regarding the First Amendment and broadcast media. What has been the general consensus, if any, on the constitutionality of banning “indecent” words or actions by the government?
       
      Reading this report and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

  • 2.2.4 The Role of the Media in the American Political System  
    • Web Media: YouTube: US Department of State: “Elections: New Media: New Challenges” and “New Media: Government 2.0”

      Link: YouTube: US Department of State: “Elections: New Media: New Challenges” (YouTube) and “New Media: Government 2.0” (YouTube)
       
      Instructions: Watch these two video clips (3:54 minutes and 1:59 minutes, respectively) to learn about the impact that new media has had on American elections and the government. Think about how, in the 2008 presidential election, Barack Obama was able to seize the power of new media, including social media, to connect with voters and strengthen the “grassroots” component of his campaign.

      New Media: New Challenges also available in:
      Adobe Flash
       
      New Media: Government 2.0 also available in:
      Adobe Flash
        
      Watching these clips and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

    • Assessment: The Saylor Foundation’s “Analyzing Political Cartoons”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Analyzing Political Cartoons” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Political cartoons are illustrations containing a commentary that usually relates to current events or personalities. They typically use visual metaphors, humor, and caricatures to address often complicated or controversial political issues. Colonial America’s earliest pictorial representations in the press were political in nature. In 1754 an illustration by Benjamin Franklin, titled “Join or Die” appeared in his newspaper, The Pennsylvania Gazette. Along with his editorial about the “disunited state” of the colonies, the picture helped to make his point about the importance of colonial unity during the French and Indian War.
       
      Today, political cartoons can be found on the editorial page of most newspapers, and they are disseminated widely on the Internet. They have been influential in shaping public opinion both historically and presently, and they play a critical role in helping citizens understand both the positive and negative aspects of representative democracy.
       
      For this assessment you will analyze the techniques, styles, and themes of various contemporary political cartoons. Please follow the directions in this file. Ater you complete the assessment, check your work against this guide to responding.
       
      Completing this assessment should take approximately 2 hours.

  • 2.2.5 Good or Bad: Evaluating the Media and Its Influence on Democracy  
  • 2.3 Participation and Voting  
    • Web Media: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Voting Behavior”

      Link: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Voting Behavior” (PPT)
       
      Instructions: Use this PowerPoint as a reference as you watch the lecture “Political Participation” below.
       
      Reading this presentation and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource has been reposted with the kind permission of Dr. Patrick Scott. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

    • Lecture: YouTube: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Political Participation”

      Link: YouTube: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Political Participation” (YouTube)
       
      Also available in:
      iTunes U (Lecture 9)
       
      Instructions: Why do we participate and vote the way we do? What are the factors that prevent us from voting? What are the types of participation? Conventional methods of participation are voting, writing public officials, engaging in public demonstrations, and volunteering for campaigns. Unconventional forms of participation include militia training, engaging in riots, looting, and blocking entrances to public buildings. Over time, we have seen a gradual extension of Americans’ right to vote. Early in the republic’s history, only white, landowning men could vote, but during Andrew Jackson’s presidency, property qualifications fell out of favor. By the 1850s, all taxpaying and landholding requirements were lifted for white males. It wasn’t until the passage of the 15th Amendment to the Constitution that black males were given the right to vote; however, many southern states enacted measures to prevent blacks from voting – i.e., poll taxes, literacy tests, intimidation – which lasted well into the 20th century. The 19th Amendment, passed in 1920, formally gave women the right to vote in elections. A number of civil rights bills and constitutional amendments were passed in the 1950s and 1960s to remove some of the remaining vestiges of discrimination toward African Americans and other minority groups.
       
      Watching this lecture and taking notes should take approximately 45 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource has been reposted with the kind permission of Patrick Scott and can be viewed in its original form here. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

    • Reading: American Government and Politics in the Information Age: “Chapter 8: Participation, Voting, and Social Movements”

      Link: American Government and Politics in the Information Age: “Chapter 8: Participation, Voting, and Social Movements” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read Chapter 8 on pages 277-323. There are many different ways that Americans can participate in politics, including voting, joining political parties, volunteering, contacting public officials, contributing money, working in campaigns, holding public office, protesting, and rioting. Voting is the most prevalent form of political participation, but many eligible voters do not turn out in elections. People can also take part in social movements, in which large groups of individuals with shared goals work together to influence government policies.
       
      Reading this chapter and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee.

    • Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 2.3 − Quickfire Quiz”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 2.3 − Quickfire Quiz” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Answer these questions to assess your understanding of this subunit.
       
      Completing this activity should take approximately 15 minutes.

  • 2.3.1 Voting Behavior  
  • 2.3.2 Enfranchisement and Trends in Political Participation Over Time  
  • 2.4 Political Parties  
    • Web Media: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Political Parties”

      Link: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Political Parties” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Use this PowerPoint as a reference as you watch the lectures “Political Parties I” and “Political Parties II” below.
       
      Reading this presentation and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource has been reposted with the kind permission of Dr. Patrick Scott. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

    • Lecture: YouTube: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Political Parties I” and “Political Parties II”

      Link: YouTube: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Political Parties I” (YouTube) and “Political Parties II” (YouTube)
       
      Also available in:
      iTunes U (Lecture 10 and 11)
       
      Instructions: Political parties are among some of the oldest organizations in the United States. At one point in our country’s history, they were very strong and dominant in our political system. However, the strength of political parties has declined in recent years due to a combination of factors: a rise in the number of political action committees (PACs), interest groups, and professional campaign consultants, which have effectively “pushed out” the role of political parties in deciding how citizens will vote. In addition, people’s attachment to political parties has significantly waned with the increase in the number of voters who consider themselves political “independents.” Dr. Scott also discusses the structure of the US two-party system (versus a multi-party system) and how it impacts the outcome of elections.
       
      Watching these videos and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: The material above has been reposted with the kind permission of Dr. Patrick Scott from Missouri State University, and can be viewed in its original form here. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

    • Reading: American Government and Politics in the Information Age: “Chapter 10: Political Parties”

      Link: American Government and Politics in the Information Age: “Chapter 10: Political Parties” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read this chapter on pages 354-406. Political parties are essential to democracy – they simplify voting choices, organize the competition, unify the electorate, help organize government by bridging the separation of powers and fostering cooperation among branches of government, translate public preferences into policy, and provide an outlet for loyal opposition.
       
      Reading this chapter and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee.

    • Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 2.4 − Quickfire Quiz”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 2.4 − Quickfire Quiz” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Answer these questions to assess your understanding of this subunit.
       
      Completing this activity should take approximately 15 minutes.

  • 2.4.1 Evolution of Political Parties in America  
    • Reading: US Department of State: Outline of the US Government: “Political Parties”

      Link: US Department of State: Outline of the US Government: “Political Parties” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read this concise historical explanation of political parties in the American system of government. Political parties are not mentioned in the Constitution – in fact, the Founding Fathers, including George Washington, were wary of “factions” that could undermine democracy.While Washington accepted the fact that it was natural for people to organize and operate within groups like political parties, he also argued that every government has recognized political parties as an enemy and has sought to repress them because of their tendency to seek more power than other groups and take revenge on political opponents. Despite his warnings, political parties developed soon after the Constitution was written, largely out of necessity. Political leaders who also opposed parties recognized the need to organize officeholders who shared views so that government could operate effectively.
       
      Reading this selection and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

    • Web Media: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 9 – Political Parties”

      Link: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 9 – Political Parties” (YouTube)
       
      Instructions: Watch the two-part presentation on the history and evolution of political parties in America. The first political parties arose in the late 18th century and came to be defined by the competing philosophies of Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson. Hamilton, a Federalist, felt it was important to invest in manufacturing and industry, while Jefferson, a Democratic-Republican, sought to protect agrarian interests, focusing instead on the power of the individual farmer. The Democratic-Republicans sustained prominence in Congress and the presidency for more than 20 years after George Washington left office, culminating with the demise of the Federalist Party and the beginning of the Second Party System.
       
      Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 2.4.2 Parties in the American System Today  
    • Web Media: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 10 – Party Function and Structure”

      Link: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 10 – Party Function and Structure” (YouTube)
       
      Instructions: Watch this two-part presentation on the structure and functions of political parties in the US. Political parties serve three important functions: helping the electorate to decide, contesting elections, and organizing government. Parties in America are organized much like the federal government – each has offices at the national, state, and local level – and often operate in a decentralized manner. The presentation also goes on to describe the historical evolution of political parties, beginning with the political machines of the late 19th century up until the early 20th century political reforms, such as primary elections, that stripped political parties of much of the power they held historically. Finally, some of the key ideological differences between the Republican and Democratic parties are discussed.
       
      Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Assessment: The Saylor Foundation’s “Third Parties”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Third Parties”
       
      Instructions: Throughout the history of American politics, no more than two political parties have ever dominated at one time. Today, the two major political parties in the U.S. are the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. These parties have emerged as dominant due in large part to their many supporters, and their organizing and fundraising capabilities. Third parties, on the other hand, have a relatively small base of support and money. More importantly, their candidates rarely win elections.
       
      Third parties are generally categorized in three ways:

      • Ideological – based on ideals that are often radically different from those of the two major parties;
      • Single-Issue – addressing one main concern;
      • Factional – parties that have split from a major party.
      For this assessment you will conduct research on a third party, either current or defunct, and answer the questions below. A list of current third parties can be found at Politics1 or by conducting an Internet search for American third parties.
       
      1. In what category does the third party belong? Why?
       
      2. What political and/or social factors led to the emergence of this party?
       
      3. List three of the party’s platform issues or political goals.
       
      4. What has been the impact of the party on electoral politics and/or national public policy?
       
      After you have answered these questions, you may check your work against this guide to responding.
       
      Completing this assessment should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.

  • 2.4.3 American Parties: Ideology and Identification  
    • Reading: Democratic National Committee: “2012 Democratic National Platform”

      Link: Democratic National Committee: 2012 Democratic National Platform” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Scroll down to “Download the PDF” to read the platform. Prior to the conventions every four years, the committees for the national parties choose key party members who meet to contribute, debate, and vote on policy stances that become the basis of their party's official platform. Party delegates – citizens selected to represent their states at national conventions – vote to support or amend platform drafts. Eventually, each position is presented as a carefully worded “plank” in a final platform document.
       
      Party platforms are nuanced marketing tools as well as political ideologies. As a result, platforms are intended to appeal to the largest possible base within the party – a difficult task in a membership group representing millions of people – in addition to convincing undecided voters. To that end, be sure to “read between the lines” to get to the core of what is really being stated in the platform. Finally, keep in mind that both parties will often have similar goals, such as improving education, but have different viewpoints on how they should be achieved. Being aware of this will help you to make a clearer distinction between their fundamental ideological positions. You will be asked to read the Republican Party platform in the resource box below.
       
      Reading this selection and taking notes should take approximately 2 hours.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Reading: Republican National Committee: “2012 Republican Platform”

      Link: Republican National Committee: “2012 Republican Platform” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Scroll down to “Download PDF” to read the platform.
       
      Reading this selection and taking notes should take approximately 2 hours.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Web Media: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 11 – Party Identification”

      Link: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 11 – Party Identification” (YouTube)
       
      Instructions: Watch the two-part presentation on party identification and national shifts in party control (realignment and dealignment) in the American political system. A person’s loyalty to or preference for one political party is called party identification. When people identify with a party, they usually agree with the party’s stance on a few major issues and give little weight to its stance on issues they consider minor or secondary. Additionally, the web media discusses how some elections can serve as turning points that define the agenda of politics and the alignment of voters within parties during periods of historic change in the economy and society.
       
      Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 2.5 Campaigns and Elections  
    • Web Media: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Campaigns and Elections”

      Link: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Campaigns and Elections” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Use this PowerPoint as a reference as you watch the lectures “Campaigns and Elections,” “Elections,” and “Campaign Finance Reform” below.
       
      Reading this presentation and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource has been reposted with the kind permission of Dr. Patrick Scott. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

    • Lecture: YouTube: Dr. Patrick Scott’s ”Campaigns and Elections,” “Elections,” and “Campaign Finance Reform”

      Link: YouTube: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Campaigns and Elections” (YouTube), “Elections” (YouTube), and “Campaign Finance Reform” (YouTube)
       
      Also available in:
      iTunes U (Lecture 12, 13, and 14)
       
      Instructions: Watch these three lectures. The nature of campaigns and elections has changed dramatically over the past several decades. The use of the Internet, professional polling and media consultants, electronic mailing lists, and focus groups have, in effect, raised the stakes – and the amount of money needed to mount a successful campaign. At the same time, candidates find themselves relying on more traditional campaign strategies, such as preserving their core base of supporters, trying to run to the middle to convince undecided voters, and focusing on those states that have the greatest chance of payoff during the general election. All of these factors have resulted in millions of dollars being spent to wage a campaign, and success is by no means guaranteed. Dr. Scott also discusses some of the costs associated with these campaigns and shows that despite the enactment of notable campaign finance reforms, campaigns are now raising more money than ever before.
       
      Watching these lectures and taking notes should take approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: The material above has been reposted with the kind permission of Dr. Patrick Scott from Missouri State University, and can be viewed in its original form here. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

    • Reading: American Government and Politics in the Information Age: “Chapter 11: Campaigns and Elections”

      Link: American Government and Politics in the Information Age: “Chapter 11: Campaigns and Elections” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read this chapter on pages 406-462. Elections are crucial in a representative democracy like the United States. They enable people to choose their leaders and thereby influence public policy. They endow elected officials with legitimacy. There are two main types of elections: primary elections and general elections. Candidates from the same political party compete for the party’s nomination in primary elections. Candidates from different parties run in the general election, which determines who will take office.
       
      Reading this chapter and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee.

    • Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 2.5 − Quickfire Quiz”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 2.5 − Quickfire Quiz” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Answer these questions to assess your understanding of this subunit.
       
      Completing this activity should take approximately 15 minutes.

  • 2.5.1 The History of Campaigns in the United States  
  • 2.5.2 The Presidential Nominating System  
    • Web Media: YouTube: IIP State: “Iowa Voters”

      Link: YouTube: IIP State: “Iowa Voters” (YouTube)
       
      Instructions: Watch this video to learn about the Iowa caucuses and how Iowa voters play an important role in nominating candidates for president. Historically, the Iowa caucuses have served as an early indication of which candidates for president might win the nomination of their political party at that party’s national convention, and which ones could drop out for lack of support. Think about the criticism that the Iowa caucuses play too much of a role in the early nominating process. Many believe that because its population does not reflect nationwide demographics, the Iowa caucuses should not be portrayed as an indicator of the types of voters that turn out in the general campaign.
       
      Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Web Media: YouTube: Khan Academy: “Primaries and Caucuses”

      Link: YouTube: Khan Academy: “Primaries and Caucuses” (YouTube)
       
      Instructions: Watch this video about how the states choose their delegates for the national party conventions. As you watch, think about how complicated the system is. Was it designed this way for a purpose? Are these contests a useful barometer in measuring presidential fitness?
       
      Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License. It is attributed to the Khan Academy and can be viewed in its original form here.

    • Assessment: The Saylor Foundation’s “The Presidential Nominating System”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “The Presidential Nominating System” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Every four years, the major political parties in the United States select their presidential candidates through a process of primary elections and caucuses. This nominating process relies on a dense matrix of national and state party rules and state election laws. The process has gone through several reforms – most notably in the early 1970s when new rules made the selection process more open and responsive to rank-and-file party voters, and reduced the power of party leaders and bosses to control delegations to the national conventions. Despite its complicated nature, the presidential nominating process is simply a race among presidential candidates to accumulate a majority of delegates in order to claim the nomination at the national convention.
       
      This assessment is divided into two parts. The first part is a matching exercise, in which you will match the term identified with the presidential nominating system with its correct description. The second part consists of two short-answer questions. Be sure to review the above resources before formulating your answers. After you finish, you can check your work against this answer key and guide to responding.
       
      Completing this assessment should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.

  • 2.5.3 Elections: Presidential and Congressional  
    • Web Media: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 14 – Congressional Elections” and “Lesson 15 – Presidential Elections”

      Link: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 14 – Congressional Elections” (YouTube) and “Lesson 15 – Presidential Elections” (YouTube)
       
      Instructions: Watch both presentations to learn about the unique structure of congressional and presidential elections in the American political system. For one of the lessons, you will learn about the power of incumbency when it comes to congressional elections. Incumbent office holders have a number of advantages: name recognition, a significant re-election war chest, and franking privileges. Many challengers can be intimidated by these factors and decide not to run. In many ways, the nature of incumbency makes the political process more intractable for newcomers. When watching the presentation, think about the pros and cons of having incumbents hold office for so long. For example, seniority and institutional memory can help many legislators become effective policymakers for their constituents; on the other hand, legislative institutions are missing a fresh perspective on the important policy issues of the day.
       
      Watching these videos and taking notes should take approximately 45 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Web Media: YouTube: Khan Academy: “Electoral College”

      Link: YouTube: Khan Academy: “Electoral College” (YouTube)
       
      Instructions: Watch this video, which serves as a helpful primer on the role of the Electoral College in electing US presidents. While watching the video, think about the consequences of having an Electoral College for democracy in America. The fact that the popular vote winner in the 2000 presidential election (Al Gore) did not become president prompted a national debate on the Electoral College. Supporters of eliminating the Electoral College advocate a direct popular election of the president, which would give every voter the same weight in accordance with the “one-person, one-vote” doctrine. Opponents contend that this type of plan would undermine federalism and make presidential campaigns more remote from voters, as candidates might stress television and give up their forays into shopping centers, city malls, and other nontraditional campaign forums across the country. The next reading discusses these arguments in more detail.
       
      Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License. It is attributed to the Khan Academy, and the original version can be found here.

    • Reading: US Department of State: The Long Campaign: “Has the Electoral College Outlived Its Usefulness?”

      Link: US Department of State: The Long Campaign“Has the Electoral College Outlived Its Usefulness?” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Read this debate on whether the Electoral College should continue to play a role in selecting the American president. Ross Baker makes the case for retaining the Electoral College as it was established by the US Constitution in 1787. Baker is a professor of political science at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Jamie Raskin presents the arguments for adapting the Electoral College system to ensure that election results reflect the national popular vote. Raskin is a Maryland state senator and a professor of constitutional law at American University in Washington, DC. He introduced legislation that made Maryland the first state in the country to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. Which side – Ross Baker (pro) or Jamie Raskin (con) – do you think makes the more convincing argument? Why?
       
      Reading this debate and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

  • 2.5.4 Campaigns: Financing and Strategy  
    • Web Media: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 13 – Financial Participation in Elections”

      Link: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 13 – Financial Participation in Elections” (YouTube)
       
      Instructions: Watch the two-part presentation on the role that money plays in campaigns and elections. In the early 1970s, the Supreme Court enacted a number of rulings to reduce the influence of special-interest groups on federal elections; however, this did not prevent the existence of soft money, unlimited amounts of money given to political parties for get-out-the-vote activities. In 2002, the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act banned soft money and instituted limits on the amount of money that federal candidates can receive per election cycle. However, a number of loopholes have enabled special-interest groups to circumvent the law and operate outside of IRS regulations. Needless to say, running a successful campaign costs more than ever before. Many political candidates now spend an inordinate amount of time raising money for their campaigns.
       
      Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Web Media: C-SPAN Video Library: “SuperPACs in the 2012 Election”

      Link: C-SPAN Video Library: “SuperPACs in the 2012 Election” (Adobe Flash)
       
      Instructions: SuperPACs have emerged as the dominant new force in campaign finance. Created in the aftermath of two landmark Supreme Court decisions, these independent spending-only political action committees collected unlimited contributions from individuals, corporations, and unions to advocate for or against political candidates in the 2012 presidential race. In the video, participants in the Washington Ideas Forum discuss the influence of SuperPACs in the 2012 election.
       
      Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 45 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

    • Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 2.5.4 − Quickfire Quiz”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 2.5.4 − Quickfire Quiz” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Answer these questions to assess your understanding of this subunit.
       
      Completing this activity should take approximately 15 minutes.

  • 2.6 Interest Groups  
    • Web Media: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Interest Groups”

      Link: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Interest Groups” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Use this PowerPoint as a reference as you watch the lectures “Interest Groups I” and “Interest Groups II” below.
       
      Watching this presentation and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource has been reposted with the kind permission of Dr. Patrick Scott. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

    • Lecture: YouTube: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Interest Groups I” and “Interest Groups II”

      Link: YouTube: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Interest Groups I” (YouTube) and “Interest Groups II” (YouTube)
       
      Also available in:
      iTunes U (Lecture 15 and 16)
       
      Instructions: Watch these two lectures to gain a general understanding of important terms and concepts for future readings and assessments.
       
      The framers understood that organized interests would always attempt to influence public policy. In fact, after the Constitution was written, interest groups formed immediately in support of and opposition to its ratification (Federalists vs. Anti-Federalists). The Anti-Federalists argued against the new Constitution claiming that the United States would be too large to govern as a democracy (republic) and had too many groups, or factions (groups of people connected by shared beliefs). While James Madison acknowledged that there were many differing factions, he also indicated that a democratic form of government, using the ideal of majority rule, would tame the factions and cause them to work together as much as possible. He claimed that the republican form of government created by the new Constitution would allow all the factions to express themselves and to influence the workings of government by getting their members elected and/or appointed to offices. Minority groups would be protected because the factions would have to negotiate their differences. In this way, the republic would create a system of government in which the majority would rule but the ideas of the minority would have to be taken into consideration. Numerous factions would also mean that no one group would be able to take complete control of the government.
       
      This seems like a logical and well-meaning argument on the merits of interest groups; however, elected officials as well as the public are often critical of the roles of special-interest groups in the political process. The activities of lobbyists (who try to influence legislation on behalf of interest groups) can smack of vote buying and influence peddling. There are so many organized lobbies today, which represent numerous segments of society and address a wide range of issues, that the distinction between special-interest groups and those of the American people may no longer be valid. In a sense, interest groups are the American people.
       
      Watching these lectures and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource has been reposted with the kind permission of Dr. Patrick Scott from Missouri State University, and can be viewed in its original form here. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

    • Reading: American Government and Politics in the Information Age: “Chapter 9: Interest Groups”

      Link: American Government and Politics in the Information Age: “Chapter 9: Interest Groups”
       
      Instructions: Read Chapter 9 on pages 323-353. Interest groups have long been important in electing and defeating candidates, in providing information to officeholders, and in setting the agenda of American politics. Americans have long been concerned about the power of what some call special interests and the tendency of groups to pursue self-interest at the expense of less organized groups or the general public. As this unit will show, restraining the negative tendencies of interest groups while protecting liberty is not an easy task.
       
      Reading this chapter and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour.
       
      Terms of Use: This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee.

    • Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 2.6 – Quickfire Quiz”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 2.6 – Quickfire Quiz” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Answer these questions to assess your understanding of this subunit.
       
      Completing this activity should take approximately 15 minutes.

  • 2.6.1 History and Role of Interest Groups in American Politics  

    What we call interest groups today, the founders of the Republic called factions. For the framers of the Constitution, the daunting problem was how to establish a stable and orderly constitutional system that would also respect the liberty of free citizens and prevent the tyranny of the majority, or of a single dominant interest. Today, interest groups exist to make demands on government.

  • 2.6.2 Types of Interest Groups  

    Interest groups vary widely: some are formal associations or organizations, while others have no formal organization. Some are organized primarily to lobby for limited goals or to broadly influence public opinion by publishing reports and mass mailings. Interest groups can be categorized into several broad types.

  • 2.6.3 Lobbying and Other Interest Group Resources and Tools  

    For many decades, interest groups have engaged in lobbying, but these efforts have become much more significant as groups become more deeply involved in the electoral process, especially through the expanded use of political action committees (PACs), mass mailings, advertising campaigns, and litigation.

  • 2.6.4 Evaluating the Impact of Interest Groups: Good or Bad for Democracy?  

    While media coverage on interest groups is more negative than positive, focusing on the activities of powerful interest groups in finance, energy, and manufacturing, an oft-quoted statement is that “the special interest is us,” meaning that we are all beneficiaries of interest-group activity in the form of consumer protection, cleaner air, safer drinking water, and workplace safety. It is perhaps more accurate to state that interest groups are both good and bad for democracy. Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not?

  • Unit 2 Current Events Challenge  
  • Unit 2 Assessment  
    • Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “Unit 2 Assessment”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Unit 2 Assessment” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Complete this assessment. You must be logged into your Saylor Foundation School account in order to access this quiz. If you do not yet have an account, you will be able to create one, free of charge, after clicking the link.
       
      Completing this assessment should take approximately 1 hour

  • Unit 3: American Institutions  

    When many people think of the American government, the institutions that come to mind most often are Congress, the president, and the Supreme Court. This unit will focus on these three important pillars of American government in addition to a fourth and often overlooked facet of American government: the bureaucracy. Each subunit is dedicated to one of the major institutions and discuss the significant role that the particular institution plays in the American political system. As we learned in previous units, the American system of government relies on a delicate balance of power among many forces. By the end of this unit, you will understand the specific roles that each institution plays in establishing and maintaining that balance of power.

    Unit 3 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 3 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 3.1 The Legislative Branch: Congress  
    • Web Media: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Congress”

      Link: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Congress” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Use this PowerPoint as a reference as you watch the lectures “Congress I,” “Congress II,” and “Term Limits” below.
       
      Reading this presentation and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource has been reposted with the kind permission of Dr. Patrick Scott. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

    • Lecture: YouTube: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Congress I,” “Congress II,” and “Term Limits”

      Link: YouTube: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Congress I” (YouTube), “Congress II” (YouTube), and “Term Limits” (YouTube)
       
      Also available in:
      iTunes U (Lecture 17, 18, and 19)
       
      Instructions: Watch these three video lectures to gain a general understanding of important terms and concepts for future readings and assessments. The US Congress is one of the world’s most significant democratic institutions. On one hand, Congress can enact far-reaching and vital legislation. Members often succeed in pushing through projects and funding that benefit their home districts. However, it is also one of the most criticized – typically for having low ethical standards and for being frustratingly slow to act, elitist, beholden to special interest groups, and overly partisan. It is no wonder that most Americans have a negative perception of Congress. Job disapproval ratings for Congress as a whole usually range between 20-30 percent among voters. Most of the criticisms of Congress are a reflection of three institutional factors: here

      • Congress is an entity that is made up of hundreds of elected officials, all representing different constituencies, agendas, and interests. As a result, members of Congress often disagree about major legislation. Any legislative action requires broad agreement both within and across the institution.
      • Because the framers created a system of shared powers, Congress has to work with the executive branch. Remember, the president has the power to veto any legislation that Congress enacts (although they can override the president's veto), so compromise becomes the order of the day. This is a system that the Founding Fathers desired, so that no one branch could wield more power than the others.
      • Congress is an incredibly complex institution in terms of rules and procedures. Thousands of bills are introduced each session in Congress, and these bills must traverse a complex legislative process involving committees, floor debates, interest group influence, and party power struggles. This complexity not only slows the process of enacting legislation, it also provides a tremendous built-in advantage for opponents of any bill to block it. Supporters of a bill must have success at every step. Opponents need to win only once. Of the approximate 8,000 bills that are introduced in every 2-year congressional cycle, only 5 percent become public laws.
      Watching these lectures and taking notes should take approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: The material above has been reposted with the kind permission of Dr. Patrick Scott from Missouri State University, and can be viewed in its original form here. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

    • Reading: American Government and Politics in the Information Age: “Chapter 12: Congress”

      Link: American Government and Politics in the Information Age: “Chapter 12: Congress” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read Chapter 12 on pages 462-530. The US Congress is one of the world’s most significant democratic institutions. Members fight hard on behalf of their states and districts and are free to introduce any legislation they wish. This openness also makes Congress one of the world’s most frustrating institutions. The tension between representation and action has existed from the very first Congress in 1789. Because Congress is divided into two houses with their own rules, procedures, and electoral bases, members often disagree about major legislation, even when the public wants action. However, as you’ll discover in this subunit, frustration does have a purpose and was even intentionally built into our constitutional system.
       
      Reading this chapter and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee.

    • Reading: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Student Study Guide #3”

      Link: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Student Study Guide #3” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read over this brief list of questions, which will be addressed in Unit 3. You should use it as a guide before each subunit to help you determine some of the most important material to be covered. At the end of the unit, use it as a resource for reviewing important terms and concepts.
       
      Reading this study guide and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource been reposted with the kind permission of Dr. Patrick Scott. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

    • Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 3.1 − Quickfire Quiz”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 3.1 − Quickfire Quiz” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Answer these questions to assess your understanding of this subunit.
       
      Completing this activity should take approximately 15 minutes.

  • 3.1.1 History and Structure of Congress  
  • 3.1.2 Congressional Elections and Redistricting  
  • 3.1.3 The Legislative Process in Congress  
  • 3.1.4 Congressional Committees  
    • Reading: Congressional Research Service: Judy Schneider’s “The Committee System in the US Congress”

      Link: Congressional Research Service: Judy Schneider’s “The Committee System in the US Congress” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read this report on the basic structure, function, and role of congressional committees. Most of the work of Congress is done in committees. This is where policies are shaped and legislation is hammered out. President Woodrow Wilson once observed, “Congress in session is Congress on public exhibition, whilst Congress in its committee rooms is Congress at work.” Each chamber of Congress has committees set up to perform specific functions, enabling the legislative bodies to accomplish their often-complex work more quickly with smaller groups. Approximately 250 congressional committees and subcommittees are each charged with different functions, and all are composed of members of Congress. Each chamber has its own committees, although there are joint committees comprised of members from both chambers. Each committee, going by chamber guidelines, adopts its own set of rules, giving each panel its own special character.
       
      Reading this report and taking notes should take approximately 45 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

  • 3.1.5 Congressional Leadership and Organization  
    • Reading: Congressional Research Service: Thomas P. Carr’s “Party Leaders in the House: Election, Duties, and Responsibilities”

      Link: Congressional Research Service: Thomas P. Carr’s “Party Leaders in the House: Election, Duties, and Responsibilities” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read this report on the basic structure of leadership in the House of Representatives. An extensive leadership structure provides an organizational framework that helps House members work effectively, if not efficiently. At the top of the leadership hierarchy is the Speaker of the House, who is the body’s presiding officer. Although not prescribed in any formal way, the Speaker is the principal spokesperson for the House and, oftentimes, for his or her party. The Speaker takes a leading role in negotiations with the Senate and president. Majority and minority leaders help set their party’s agenda on issues and are often their party’s face with when discussing policy issues with the media. The whips encourage party unity on House votes. Each majority and minority whip heads an extensive network comprised of party loyalists.
       
      Reading this report and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

    • Reading: United States Senate: “Party Leadership”

      Link: United States Senate: “Party Leadership” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read this article. The Senate leadership consists of the presiding officer, majority leader, minority leader, and whips. Unlike in the House, where the Speaker wields considerable power, the presiding officer is not the most visible member of the Senate and can only vote in case of a tie. The majority and minority leaders work together to schedule and manage Senate business. Whips are less important in the Senate than in the House because the closer personal relationships that develop in the smaller body make it easier to know how members will vote without a formal whip count.
       
      This article is taken from the United States Senate’s informational webpage, www.senate.gov. It provides a great deal of useful information about the history, makeup, and functions of the United States Senate.
       
      Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

  • 3.1.6 The Legislative Context: Factors that Influence Members of Congress and the Laws that Are Made  
  • 3.1.7 Congress and Issues of Representation and Democracy  
    • Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “Congress and Issues of Representation and Democracy”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Congress and Issues of Representation and Democracy” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read this article. It focuses on the evolving concepts of congressional representation – representatives as trustees, delegates, or politicos.
       
      Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.

    • Optional Mobile App: Sunlight Foundation’s Real Time Congress

      Link: Sunlight Foundation’s Real Time Congress (iOS app)
       
      Instructions: This app allows you to view live updates from US House and Senate proceedings. The app includes schedules, committee and hearing information, and policy documents.
       
      Reading through this app should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Assessment: The Saylor Foundation’s “The US House of Representatives: A Member Profile”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “The US House of Representatives: A Member Profile” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Congress is one of the best-known legislative bodies in the world. It was important to the Founding Fathers that such a body serve the states and the citizens equally. As a result, a bicameral legislature was created, consisting of an upper house (the Senate) and a lower house (the House of Representatives). It was also the Founding Fathers' intent that the House and Senate not be carbon copies of each other. The Founders envisioned that the House would more closely represent the will of the people than the Senate. To this end, they provided that members of the House be elected by, and represent, limited groups of citizens living in small geographically defined districts within each state.
       
      All members of the House are up for election every two years. Therefore, in effect, they are always running for election. This was done to ensure that members maintain close personal contact with their local constituents, thus remaining constantly aware of their opinions and needs, and better able to act as their advocates in Washington. Elected for six-year terms, Senators remain somewhat more insulated from the people, thus less likely to be tempted to vote according to the short-term passions of public opinion.
       
      For this assessment, you will choose a member of the House of Representatives and answer the following questions related to their personal and political background. The 435 House members represent a wide array of constituencies, districts, and ideologies. As such, it can be difficult to pass legislation without the assistance of large voting blocs or coalitions of members with similar goals. Answer the questions in this assessment. When you are finished, check your work against this guide to responding.
       
      Completing this assessment should take approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes.

    • Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s “Discussion Forum for POLSC231”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Discussion Forum for POLSC231” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: One of the common criticisms of Congress is that it is too slow to act on issues of concern to a majority of Americans. Why do you think this is the case? When formulating your answer, consider both the institutional and political factors that influence the way Congress works. Post your response in the course’s discussion forum, which is accessible via the link above. You will see a thread labeled “Congress” (or you can click here to be taken directly to this thread). Leave a reply there and check back to see what some of your classmates have written. Feel free to leave comments on your classmates’ posts.
       
      Note: You will need to create a free account at Saylor.org to participate in the forum. This will only take a minute to do.
       
      Completing this activity should take approximately 15 minutes.

  • 3.2 The Executive Branch: Presidency  
    • Web Media: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “The American Presidency”

      Link: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “The American Presidency” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Use this PowerPoint as a reference as you watch the lectures, “The Presidency I” and “The Presidency II” below.
       
      Watching this presentation and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource has been reposted with the kind permission of Dr. Patrick Scott. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

    • Reading: YouTube: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “The Presidency I” and “The Presidency II”

      Link: YouTube: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “The Presidency I” (YouTube) and “The Presidency II” (YouTube)
       
      Also available in:
      iTunes U (Lecture 20 and 21)
       
      Instructions: Watch both lectures. The President of the United States of America (often abbreviated POTUS) is the head of state of the United States. The office of president was established upon the ratification of the US Constitution in 1788, and the first president, George Washington, took office in 1789.
       
      During the Constitutional Convention, the Founding Fathers sent the message that they “never once thought of a king.” However, the need for a strong executive after the problems of the Articles of Confederation was widely recognized. The question was, “how strong?” During the proceedings, some championed for a single executive. Others were afraid of a powerful single president and wanted multiple executives. Some wanted the executive to be chosen by Congress.
       
      What they eventually decided was that there would be a single president, and his powers would be tempered by the checks and balances of the judicial and legislative branches of the federal government. This system was designed to solve several political problems faced by the young nation and to anticipate future challenges, while still preventing the rise of an autocrat over a nation wary of royal authority. From the debates at Philadelphia rose the presidency as we know it today.
       
      The United States was the first nation to create the office of president as the head of state in a modern republic, and today the presidential system of government is used in several countries throughout the world. As of 2013, there have been 44 presidents of the United States. From the early 20th Century, the United States’ status as a superpower has led the American president to be one of the world’s best-known public figures.
       
      Watching these lectures and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource has been reposted with the kind permission of Dr. Patrick Scott from Missouri State University, and the original version can be found here. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

    • Reading: American Government and Politics in the Information Age: “Chapter 13: The Presidency”

      Link: American Government and Politics in the Information Age: “Chapter 13: The Presidency” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read Chapter 13 on pages 530-586. The United States was the first nation to create the office of president as the head of state in a modern republic, and today the presidential system of government is used in several countries throughout the world. “The leader of the free world” was a common phrase describing the president during the Cold War, and since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the president of the United States has often, perhaps erroneously, been described as “the most powerful person on Earth.”
       
      Reading this chapter and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee.

    • Optional Mobile App: Mulishani LLC’s USA Presidents

      Link: Mulishani LLC’s USA Presidents (iOS app)
       
      Instructions: Read through flash cards on each US president from 1789 to the present. Each card includes the president’s official portrait, political party, and the length of tenure in office. The app also includes a quiz feature to help you learn these relevant facts.
       
      Reading through this app should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 3.2 − Quickfire Quiz”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 3.2 − Quickfire Quiz” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Answer these questions to assess your understanding of this subunit.
       
      Completing this activity should take approximately 15 minutes.

  • 3.2.1 The Constitution and Presidential Power  
    • Reading: US Department of State: Outline of the US Government: “The Executive Branch: Powers of the Presidency”

      Link: US Department of State: Outline of the US Government: “The Executive Branch: Powers of the Presidency” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read the sections titled “Introduction,” “Presidential Powers,” and “Constraints on Presidential Power” in this chapter on the presidency. While the president is vested with a number of constitutional powers, this reading shows that, in a system of checks and balances, the president can often be frustrated, especially by Congress, in trying to promote and implement his legislative agenda. That being said, the presidency is both an institution and a person. The institution is the office created by the Constitution, custom, cumulative federal law since 1789, and the gradual growth of formal and informal tools of presidential power. The person is the human being holding the office, with the personality, style, and characteristics each brings. Great crises and great individuals have contributed to the growth of the presidency. Each president places his personal stamp on the presidency. On one end of the spectrum, William H. Taft felt the president to be restricted: “The president can exercise no power which cannot be fairly or reasonably traced to some specific grant of power.” Teddy Roosevelt, on the other hand, saw the president as the people’s steward. He believed “it was not only his right but his duty to do anything that the needs of the Nation demanded unless such action was forbidden by the Constitution or by the laws.” Lincoln and FDR felt that the president had almost unlimited power to protect the nation in emergency situations.
       
      Reading this selection and taking notes should take approximately 45 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

    • Web Media: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 19 – The Nature of a President”

      Link: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 19 – The Nature of a President” (YouTube)
       
      Instructions: Watch this two-part presentation on the presidency and the limits on presidential power. Although the president is vested with great powers, he has many different roles. Presidents who are active rather than passive tend to have more successful presidencies. Presidents are also vested with the constitutional roles of commander-in-chief, leader of the federal bureaucracy, executor of federal law, and chief legislator. The process of checks and balances prevents a president from overreaching his power (although many have tried). Finally, it is critical that presidents have the power to persuade both with Congress and the American public.
       
      Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Web Media: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 20 – Presidential Roles: Express Roles”

      Link: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 20 – Presidential Roles: Express Roles” (YouTube)
       
      Instructions: Watch the first topic in this two-part presentation to learn more about the powers the Constitution gives the president: commander-in-chief, chief executive, head of state, chief diplomat, and chief legislator.
       
      Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 3.2.1 − Quickfire Quiz”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 3.2.1 − Quickfire Quiz” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Answer these questions to assess your understanding of this subunit.
       
      Completing this activity should take approximately 15 minutes.

  • 3.2.2 The Expansion of Presidential Power  
  • 3.2.3 The Executive Branch: Vice President, Executive Office of the President, and the Cabinet  
    • Web Media: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 21 – The White House”

      Link: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 21 – The White House” (YouTube)
       
      Instructions: Watch this two-part presentation to learn more about the offices and individuals in the White House that play a major role in a president’s tenure in office. The second topic will discuss the different management styles that modern presidents have used while in the White House.
       
      The office of the presidency is no longer one person but an assemblage of people gathered around the president to aid in the decision-making process. Although ultimate power still rests in the hands of the chief executive, modern presidents have at their disposal a staff with extensive political and policy expertise. The White House Staff is the president’s inner circle and works with him on a daily basis. Presidents rely heavily on their personal staffs. Nowhere else can presidents find the loyalty that often develops among their closest aides. The president frequently fills these positions with those who have shown themselves to be trusted allies. Many have worked with him in the past as campaign aides, some are longtime friends, and others are business associates. Karl Rove, President Bush’s closest advisor, ran his two gubernatorial campaigns in Texas, and was also a consultant to the elder Bush.
       
      White House staff members serve at the “pleasure of the president,” meaning that they and are not subject to Senate confirmation. White House staff fills a variety of functions. Some act as gatekeepers, others deal with Congress, others write speeches, and others act as links with executive departments. The power of White House staffers flows from their positions as extensions of the president. They must stay in the president’s good graces or they will be quickly let go.
       
      Presidents organize their staffs differently. Bush Sr. used a more traditional system with a single chief of staff. Clinton’s first staff members were young and inexperienced in the ways of Washington, and his first chief of staff, Mack McLarty, had an undisciplined style of administration. He was fired in favor of a Washington insider, Leon Panetta, to impose order and discipline. George W. Bush ran a disciplined, tightly controlled staff modeled on corporate America. White House staff have been criticized in the past for telling the president only what he wants to hear, or for not revealing enough. This can sometimes lead to disastrous policy decisions such as the Bay of Pigs invasion under JFK.
       
      The Executive Office of the President is the unit that works closest with the president. FDR established the EOP by executive order in 1939 after a committee of scholars determined that “the president needs help.” It helped him carry out the growing responsibilities of the New Deal programs. It has grown over time and has taken on a more enlarged role in government. Currently, the EOP has about 1,800 employees. These employees work in the West Wing of the White House and the Executive Office Building, an extension of the White House.
       
      Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Web Media: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 25 – The Cabinet”

      Link: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 25 – The Cabinet” (YouTube)
       
      Instructions: Watch this three-part presentation to learn more about the history and evolution of the cabinet. The cabinet is not mentioned in the Constitution, yet every president has had one. The cabinet is an advisory council for the president, consisting of the heads of the executive departments. All cabinet secretary nominees must be confirmed by the Senate. Cabinet departments also vary in their influence with the White House. Presidents tend to pay the greatest attention to the oldest and most visible departments: Justice, Defense, State, and Treasury. Also, these departments are important to the president’s foreign and economic success. In recent years, the Secretary of Homeland Security has risen to a level of significance that is arguably closer to the big four than to the other cabinet offices. Other departments have less importance and are more distant from the president’s day-to-day priorities; these include the Department of Veteran’s Affairs and the Department of Agriculture, for example. The cabinet is a product of custom and is collectively a weak body. Although presidents have talked of using the cabinet when they first came into office and created mechanisms for regular meetings, cabinet government is an illusion. JFK said cabinet meetings were “a waste of time.”
       
      Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 3.2.4 Presidential Leadership and Politics  
    • Web Media: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 22 – Presidential Politics, Polls and the Press”

      Link: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 22 – Presidential Politics, Polls and the Press” (YouTube)
       
      Instructions: Watch this three-part presentation to learn more about presidential politics and public perception. A watchdog media has had increasing power in our media-saturated society. A free press is a basic check on presidential power. Presidents have strange relationships with the media. They need the media to help get their messages out, and work hard to shape what the media report by putting their own spin on the news, but presidents often criticize the media for being too hard on them. The White House Office of Communications was created under Nixon to give the White House ways to link with local news. The White House has made various attempts at news management. Press secretaries also can act as a buffer between the press and the president. In recent years, they have held daily press briefings for the White House press corps. Presidents need to have smooth relations with the press.
       
      Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Optional Mobile App: The White House’s The White House

      Link: The White House’s The White House (iOS app)
       
      Instructions: Use this optional app to read news from the official White House blog and press briefing room, view photo and video archives, and live streams of Obama Administration briefings and events.
       
      Reading through this app should take 1 hour and 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s “Discussion Forum for POLSC231”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Discussion Forum for POLSC231” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: How important do you think it is for presidents to embrace social media as a way to get their message out to citizens and voters? Do you see any potential drawbacks from doing this? Post your response in the course’s discussion forum, which is accessible via the link above. You will see a thread labeled “The President and Social Media” (or you can click here to be taken directly to this thread). Leave a reply there and check back to see what some of your classmates have written. Feel free to leave comments on your classmates’ posts.
       
      Note: You will need to create a free account at Saylor.org to participate in the forum. This will only take a minute to do.
       
      Completing this activity should take approximately 15 minutes.

  • 3.3 The Bureaucracy  
  • 3.3.1 History of the Bureaucracy  
    • Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “Development of the US Bureaucracy”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Development of the US Bureaucracy” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read this article on the history and development of the bureaucracy in the American political system, from patronage and the spoils system to the enactment of the Pendleton Act, which created a merit-based federal civil service in the aftermath of the assassination of President James Garfield by a disgruntled office seeker.
       
      Reading this selection and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 3.3.2 Characteristics and Organization of the Bureaucracy  
    • Web Media: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 24 – The Nature of the Bureaucracy”

      Link: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 24 – The Nature of the Bureaucracy” (YouTube)
       
      Instructions: Watch the first two topics in this three-part presentation to learn more about the perceptions and organization of the federal bureaucracy. The federal bureaucracy is huge, employing nearly 4 million people. The executive branch manages the federal bureaucracy.Through its power of oversight, Congress also monitors the federal bureaucracy to make sure that it acts properly. There are five types of organizations in the federal bureaucracy: cabinet departments, independent executive agencies, independent regulatory commissions, government corporations, and presidential commissions. The federal bureaucracy was small throughout much of American history, but the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War, and President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs significantly expanded the role of the federal government. George W. Bush’s War on Terror has also expanded and redefined the role of the federal government and has necessitated the creation of new organizations, such as the Department of Homeland Security.
       
      Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Web Media: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 26 – Other Bureaucratic Bodies”

      Link: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 26 – Other Bureaucratic Bodies” (YouTube)
       
      Instructions: Watch this two-part presentation to learn about regulatory agencies and government corporations. Nearly all of the federal government’s work was accomplished through cabinet departments until the 1880s, when Congress began establishing agencies that were positioned outside the cabinet. Among these agencies are the independent regulatory commissions that were created to protect public interest by developing and enforcing rules. These agencies, which have powers similar to legislative and judicial bodies, regulate certain sectors of the nation’s economy. While they operate outside the executive branch, regulatory agencies are headed by a board or commission whose members are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. Such regulatory bodies include the Interstate Commerce Committee, the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the Environmental Protection Agency. All of these agencies are independent governmental commissions established by legislative act in order to set standards in a specific field of activity, or operations, in the private sector of the economy and then to enforce those standards.
       
      Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 3.3.3 Role and Influence of the Bureaucracy  
  • 3.3.4 Regulating the Bureaucracy  
    • Reading: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 27 – Checks on the Bureaucracy”

      Link: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 27 – Checks on the Bureaucracy” (YouTube)
       
      Instructions: Watch this two-part presentation to learn more about how the bureaucracy is regulated by Congress and the judicial branch. One of the most powerful mechanisms used by Congress to constrain the bureaucracy is the power of oversight. The goal of oversight is to promote accountability in government and to ask the tough questions of public officials. Congress exercises this power largely through its congressional committee system. However, oversight, which dates to the earliest days of the republic, also occurs in a wide variety of congressional activities and contexts. These include authorization, appropriations, investigative, and legislative hearings by standing committees; specialized investigations by select committees; and reviews and studies by congressional support agencies and staff.
       
      Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Lecture: C-SPAN Video Library: “Federal Bureaucracy and Reform”

      Link: C-SPAN Video Library: “Federal Bureaucracy and Reform” (Adobe Flash)
       
      Instructions: Watch this video in which New York University professor Paul Light argues for federal bureaucratic reform following two high-profile scandals in the executive branch. Over the years, Dr. Light has been a prominent critic of what he believes to be inefficiency, mismanagement, and corruption within bureaucratic agencies. Others argue, however, that if reforms are to occur, a clear set of goals must be articulated and promising new solutions must be identified. In addition, reformers must work to build consensus across and within the legislative and executive branches to obtain the necessary political support.
       
      Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 45 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Web Media: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 24 – The Nature of the Bureaucracy”

      Link: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 24 – The Nature of the Bureaucracy” (YouTube)
       
      Instructions: Watch the final topic, titled “Bureaucratic Reform,” in this three-part presentation. For years, virtually every presidential election included a debate over the size of the federal government. Americans who believed the bureaucracy had become too large, too expensive, and too powerful were becoming more numerous, and as a result, many politicians began to demand reform. Bureaucracies move slowly. One hand doesn’t always know what the other is doing. Federal employees have so much job security that there is little fear of being fired for incompetence. There are so many agencies organized in such confusing ways. How can the ordinary citizen feel connected to government when everything is so impersonal? Public criticism of bureaucratic inefficiency is commonplace. In response, many people, including most presidents, have tried to reform and reorganize the bureaucracy.
       
      Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 3.4 The Judicial Branch: The United States Supreme Court and Inferior Courts  
    • Web Media: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “The Judiciary”

      Link: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “The Judiciary”(PDF)
       
      Instructions: Use this PowerPoint as a reference as you watch the lectures, “The Judiciary I” and “The Judiciary II” below.
       
      Watching this presentation and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource has been reposted with the kind permission of Dr. Patrick Scott. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

    • Lecture: YouTube: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “The Judiciary I” and “The Judiciary II”

      Link: YouTube: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “The Judiciary I” (YouTube) and “The Judiciary II” (YouTube)
       
      Also available in:
      iTunes U (Lecture 28 and 29)
       
      Instructions: Watch these two lectures. Article III of the Constitution establishes the federal court system. The first section creates the US Supreme Court as the federal system’s highest court. The Supreme Court has final say on matters of federal law that come before it. Today, the US Supreme Court has nine justices who are appointed by the president with the approval of the Senate. Congress has the power to create and organize the lower federal courts. Today, there are lower federal courts in every state. To ensure that they are insulated from political influence, federal judges are appointed for life as long as they exhibit good behavior. This generally means for as long as they want the job or until they are impeached for committing a serious crime. In addition, the Constitution specifies that Congress cannot cut a judge’s pay. This prevents members of Congress from punishing a judge when they do not like one of his or her decisions.
       
      Watching these lectures and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource has been reposted with the kind permission of Dr. Patrick Scott, and the original version can be found here. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

    • Reading: American Government and Politics in the Information Age: “Chapter 15: The Courts”

      Link: American Government and Politics in the Information Age: “Chapter 15: The Courts” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read Chapter 15 on pages 628-679. Judges in the United States play a more active role in the political process than they do in most other democracies. Unlike other countries, the US has a dual judiciary – federal and state court systems. In both federal and state courts, individuals must have standing to sue, and must assert a personal injury. Courts decide only justiciable cases, not political questions.
       
      Reading this chapter and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee.

    • Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 3.4 − Quickfire Quiz”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 3.4 − Quickfire Quiz” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Answer these questions to assess your understanding of this subunit.
       
      Completing this activity should take approximately 15 minutes.

  • 3.4.1 The Development of the Federal Courts  
    • Reading: Administrative Office of the US Courts: “Understanding the Federal Courts”

      Link: Administrative Office of the US Courts: “Understanding the Federal Courts” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Read this report on the history, development, and organization of the US federal court system. The judicial branch, compared to the legislative and executive branches, did not receive as much attention in the drafting of the Constitution. The Constitution does require a Supreme Court – the framers felt it was a necessity if the national government was to have the power to make and enforce laws that take precedence over those of the states. If you recall, the lack of a national court was one of the many shortcomings of the Articles of Confederation. However, the framers left it to Congress to create lower courts, also known as “Article III courts”. You can find additional resources on the courts here.
       
      Reading this report and taking notes should take approximately 45 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

  • 3.4.2 Organization of the Federal Courts  
    • Web Media: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: Lesson 28 – The Federal Court System”

      Link: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 28 – The Federal Court System” (YouTube)
       
      Instructions: Watch this two-part presentation to learn more about the structure of the American federal court system. The judicial system in the United States is unique insofar as it is actually made up of two different court systems: the federal court system and the state court systems. While each court system is responsible for hearing certain types of cases, neither is completely independent of the other, and the systems often interact. Furthermore, solving legal disputes and vindicating legal rights are key goals of both court systems. This presentation is designed to examine the differences, similarities, and interactions between the federal and state court systems to make the public aware of how each system goes about achieving these goals.
       
      Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 3.4.3 The Supreme Court’s Role and Decision-Making  
    • Lecture: University of California, Irvine: Erwin Chemerinsky’s “The Supreme Court”

      Link: YouTube: University of California, Irvine: Erwin Chemerinsky’s “The Supreme Court” (YouTube)
       
      Instructions: Watch this lecture. The Supreme Court is the only court that has complete control over the cases that it chooses to hear. Its nine justices dispose of thousands of cases annually, and most of their time is concentrated on the fewer than 100 cases per year that they accept for review – usually those dealing with substantial federal questions or constitutional issues. The court’s decisions and opinions establish guidelines for lower courts around the country.
       
      Watching this lecture and taking notes should take approximately 45 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License. It is attributed to Erwin Chemerinsky and the University of California, Irvine, and the original version can be found here.

    • Web Media: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson – The Nature of the Supreme Court”

      Link: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics“Lesson 30 – The Nature of the Supreme Court” (YouTube)
       
      Instructions: Watch this two-part presentation to learn more about how Supreme Court justices interpret the law, basically through the competing legal philosophies of judicial restraint and judicial activism. Additionally, this resource discusses the historic impact of the court’s immense power of judicial review, the final authority on the interpretation of the Constitution.
       
      Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 3.4.4 Selecting Judges and Supreme Court Justices  
  • 3.4.5 The Impact of the Court on American Society  
    • Reading: Administrative Office of the US Courts: “How the Federal Courts Work”

      Link: Administrative Office of the US Courts: How the Federal Courts Work: “Civil Cases” (HTML), “Criminal Cases” (HTML), “Bankruptcy Cases” (HTML), and “The Appeals Process” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Read these webpages about the various types of cases that the federal courts take on. The Constitution gives Congress the power to create federal courts other than the Supreme Court and to determine their jurisdiction. It is Congress, not the judiciary, that controls the type of cases that may be addressed in the federal courts. Congress has three other basic responsibilities that determine how the courts will operate. First, it decides how many judges there should be and where they will work. Second, through the confirmation process, Congress determines which of the president’s judicial nominees ultimately become federal judges. Third, Congress approves the federal courts’ budget and appropriates money for the judiciary to operate. The judiciary’s budget is a very small part – substantially less than 1 percent – of the entire federal budget.
       
      Reading this report and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

    • Web Media: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 29 – The Historical Supreme Courts” and “Lesson 31 – The Modern Supreme Court”

      Link: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 29 – The Historical Supreme Courts” (YouTube) and “Lesson 31 – The Modern Supreme Court” (YouTube)
       
      Instructions: Watch both of these videos on the Supreme Court. The first discusses several landmark decisions in the court’s history. Many of these decisions resulted in dramatic and sweeping changes to the social, legal, and political landscape of our country – decisions that continue to be debated today. The other video discusses the judicial selection process, including the involvement of the president and Congress.
       
      Watching these videos and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Optional Mobile App: Vook’s Influential Supreme Court Decisions: A Brief History

      Link: Vook’s Influential Supreme Court Decisions: A Brief History (iOS app)
       
      Instructions: Open this optional app to read about the outcome and impact of the nation’s highest court decisions over the years. Plese note that there is a cost associated with this app, which may be purchased for $0.99.
       
      Reading through this optional app should take approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Assessment: The Saylor Foundation’s “Landmark Supreme Court Cases”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Landmark Supreme Court Cases”
       
      Instructions: The Supreme Court has issued a multitude of important and influential rulings over its long history. Many of these decisions – some of which continue to be debated today – resulted in dramatic and sweeping changes to the social, legal, and political landscape of the country.
       
      Select one of the landmark Supreme Court cases listed on the website of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts and write a one paragraph description for each of the following:
       
      1.    The background/origin of the case.
      2.    How the case moved through the system (appeals process).
      3.    The position of each side arguing before the court.
      4.    A summary of the majority opinion.
      5.    A summary of the dissenting opinion (if any).
      6.    The historical legacy of the case.
       
      After you finish, you may check your work against this guide to responding, which provides some sample answers.
       
      Completing this assessment should take approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes.

  • Unit 3 Current Events Challenge  
  • Unit 3 Assessment  
    • Assessment: The Saylor Foundation’s “Unit 3 Assessment”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Unit 3 Assessment” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Complete this assessment. You must be logged into your Saylor Foundation School account in order to access this quiz. If you do not yet have an account, you will be able to create one, free of charge, after clicking the link.
       
      Completing this assessment should take approximately 1 hour.

  • Unit 4: Civil Rights & Civil Liberties in America  

    An important aspect of American government is the significance of civil rights and civil liberties granted to Americans. Freedoms and rights were an inicial factor in shaping the American political system, and they continue to play a major role in our society today. The Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights, defines Americans’ rights and freedoms; however, as society has changed, so too has the perception and realization of civil liberties and civil rights. In this unit, we will explore the freedoms and rights of American citizens. We will begin by looking at the civil liberties guaranteed in the Constitution, especially in the Bill of Rights. This unit will especially focus on the rights defined in the First Amendment; the Second Amendment's right to bear arms; the right to privacy; and how the courts’ interpretation of these rights have been applied, or incorporated, by the states. Next, we will explore the evolution of civil rights in the American political system, with an emphasis on the Civil Rights Movement, and political equality of all Americans. The unit will also pay close attention to how the American political system creates a balance between order and freedom, on one hand, and equality and rights on the other.

    Unit 4 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 4 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 4.1 American Civil Liberties  
    • Web Media: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Civil Liberties and Equal Rights”

      Link: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Civil Liberties and Equal Rights” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Use this PowerPoint as a reference as you watch the lectures “Civil Liberties I,” “Civil Liberties II,” and “Equal Rights” below.
       
      Reading this presentation and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource has been reposted with the kind permission of Dr. Patrick Scott. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

    • Lecture: YouTube: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Civil Liberties I,” “Civil Liberties II,” and “Equal Rights”

      Link: YouTube: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Civil Liberties I” (YouTube), “Civil Liberties II” (YouTube), and “Equal Rights” (YouTube)
       
      Also available in:
      iTunes U (Lecture 30, 31, and 32)
       
      Instructions: Watch these three lectures to gain a general understanding of important terms and concepts. It is important to make the distinction between civil liberties and civil (equal) rights. The Constitution, especially its Bill of Rights, protects many civil liberties. These amendments limit the powers of the federal government, protecting the rights of all citizens, residents, and visitors on US territory. Among the rights these amendments guarantee are the following: the freedoms of speech, press, and religion; the freedom to assemble and to petition the government; the right to keep and bear arms; and freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, from cruel and unusual punishment, and from self-incrimination. Civil rights, on the other hand, are the protections against unequal treatment that the government guarantees to all groups. The forms of inequality based on our nation’s history came in three forms: inequality of opportunity, inequality of outcome, and segregation. Numerous minority groups spent several decades or even hundreds of years fighting for equality under the law.
       
      Watching these lectures and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource has been reposted with the kind permission of Dr. Patrick Scott, and the original version can be found here. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

    • Reading: American Government and Politics in the Information Age: “Chapter 4: Civil Liberties”

      Link: American Government and Politics in the Information Age: “Chapter 4: Civil Liberties” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read Chapter 4 on pages 119-156. Civil liberties are the rights and freedoms of individuals that the Constitution says government should not infringe upon. What these freedoms entail is much disputed in American politics and affects a wide range of policies.
       
      Reading this chapter and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee.

    • Reading: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Student Study Guide #4: The Judiciary/Civil Rights/Civil Liberties”

      Link: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Student Study Guide #4: The Judiciary/Civil Rights/Civil Liberties” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read this brief list of questions, which will be addressed in Unit 4. You should use it as a guide before each subunit to help you determine some of the most important material to be covered. At the end of the unit, use it as a resource for reviewing important terms and concepts.
       
      Reading this study guide should take approximately 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource has been reposted with the kind permission of Dr. Patrick Scott. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

    • Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 4.1 − Quickfire Quiz”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 4.1 − Quickfire Quiz” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Answer these questions to assess your understanding of this subunit.
       
      Completing this activity should take approximately 15 minutes.

  • 4.1.1 The Bill of Rights  
    • Reading: US Department of State: “Amendments to the US Constitution, Annotated”

      Link: US Department of State: “Amendments to the US Constitution, Annotated” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Read the first ten Amendments to the Constitution, commonly known as the Bill of Rights, and the annotations to learn about what rights are granted to Americans therein. The individual rights and freedoms that government may not infringe upon are primarily listed in the Bill of Rights, adopted in 1791 by the founders to address fears about the new federal government’s potential to abuse power. Initially limited to the federal government, they now apply, though unevenly, to the states, as well. What these liberties are and how far they extend continues to be the focus of political conflict.
       
      Reading this selection and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

  • 4.1.2 First Amendment Rights: Freedom of Religion, Press, and Expression  
  • 4.1.3 Rights Under Debate: The Right to Bear Arms and the Right to Privacy  
    • Web Media: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 37 – The Fourth Amendment”

      Link: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 37 – The Fourth Amendment” (YouTube)
       
      Instructions: Watch this two-part presentation to learn more about privacy rights established under the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment prevents the government from conducting “unreasonable searches and seizures.” A reasonable search is conducted with a warrant issued by a judge and based on probable cause. What is “unreasonable” varies with how much privacy people can expect when they are being searched.
       
      Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 4.1.4 Extending the Bill of Rights to the States  
    • Web Media: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 32 – Incorporation”

      Link: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 32 – Incorporation” (YouTube)
       
      Instructions: Watch this two-part presentation to learn more about how many of the rights protected by the Constitution have been extended and are now protected by the states. The incorporation of the Bill of Rights (or incorporation, for short) is the process by which American courts have applied portions of the US Bill of Rights to the states. Prior to the 1890s, the Bill of Rights was held only to apply to the federal government. Under the incorporation doctrine, most provisions of the Bill of Rights now also apply to the state and local governments, by virtue of the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution.
       
      Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Web Media: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 38 – Due Process and Criminal Rights”

      Link: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 38 – Due Process and Criminal Rights” (YouTube)
       
      Instructions: Watch this four-part presentation to learn more about the due process of the law and how these rights have extended to the states. One of the most fundamental tasks for a democratic society is to balance the needs of law enforcement versus the fundamental rights of its citizens. Many of the rights enumerated in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were designed to ensure that people accused of crimes would have a fair opportunity to respond, and that the government had to bear the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The founders of our democracy understood that they were conferring upon the newly formed government tremendous powers to deprive people of their happiness, their liberty, and even their lives. But as has often been said, our rights were not always self-executing – they required advocates to come forward and press for their enforcement.
       
      Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 45 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 4.1.4 − Quickfire Quiz”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 4.1.4 − Quickfire Quiz” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Answer these questions to assess your understanding of this subunit.
       
      Completing this activity should take approximately 15 minutes.

  • 4.2 Equality and Civil Rights  
  • 4.2.1 Roots of Inequality: The Civil War Amendments and Racial Segregation  
    • Web Media: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 39 – Civil War Amendments”

      Link: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 39 – Civil War Amendments” (YouTube)
       
      Instructions: Watch the first part, Topic 1, of this two-part presentation on the Civil War Amendments. The Reconstruction Amendments are the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth amendments to the United States Constitution, passed between 1865 and 1870, the five years immediately following the Civil War. This group of Amendments is sometimes referred to as the Civil War Amendments.
       
      These Amendments were intended to restructure the United States from a country that was, in Abraham Lincoln’s words, “half slave and half free” to one in which the constitutionally guaranteed “blessings of liberty” would be extended to the entire populace, including the former slaves and their descendants. The Thirteenth Amendment, which was proposed and ratified in 1865, abolished slavery. The Fourteenth Amendment, which was proposed in 1866 and ratified in 1868, provides a broad definition of national citizenship, overturning the Dred Scott case, which excluded African Americans from becoming citizens. It required the states to provide equal protection under the law to all persons – not just citizens – within their jurisdictions. The Fifteenth Amendment, ratified in 1870, grants voting rights regardless of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” As history has shown, it took more than a century for these amendments to be enforced, especially in the South, where many whites intimidated African Americans to keep them from fulfilling their full rights of citizenship, including the right to vote.
       
      Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 4.2.2 Political Pressure for Desegregation and the Civil Rights Movement  
    • Web Media: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 39 – The Civil Rights Movement”

      Link: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 39 – The Civil Rights Movement” (YouTube)
       
      Instructions: Watch the second part, Topic 2, of this two-part presentation on key figures in the Civil Rights Movement. The civil rights movement was and is a worldwide political movement for equality before the law. In many situations it took the form of civil resistance campaigns aimed at achieving change by nonviolent forms of resistance. The process was long and tenuous in the United States; however, the efforts of these movements did lead to improvements in the legal rights of previously oppressed groups of people, especially African Americans. There were a multitude of civil rights leaders who had different goals in order to achieve equality – everything from all-out rebellion to non-violent resistance and working within the existing political system. Compare and contrast the tactics each of them used to gain attention for the movement.
       
      Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Web Media: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 40 – Post WWII Civil Rights Legislation”

      Link: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 40 – Post WWII Civil Rights Legislation” (YouTube)
       
      Instructions: Watch the first three parts, Topics 1-3, of this four-part presentation on the movement for civil rights. During the presidential administrations of the mid-20th century, presidents had varying attitudes towards the civil rights movements. Some saw it as a hindrance – and a distraction – to their greater political agendas, while others felt that civil rights was a matter in which they needed to take leadership. Read about how these presidents grappled with the issue of civil rights. Who do you think took the bravest position on it?
       
      Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Optional Mobile App: DocuApps’ The Civil Rights Act of 1964

      Link: DocuApps’ The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (iOS app)
       
      Instructions: Open this optional app to read the full text of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the most sweeping civil rights legislation since the Reconstruction era.
       
      Reading through this optional app should take approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 4.2.2 − Quickfire Quiz”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 4.2.2 − Quickfire Quiz” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Answer these questions to assess your understanding of this subunit.
       
      Completing this activity should take approximately 15 minutes.

  • 4.2.3 Civil Rights for Other Minorities  
  • 4.2.4 Affirmative Action and Its Impact on Equality  
    • Web Media: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 40 – Post WWII Civil Rights Legislation”

      Link: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 40 – Post WWII Civil Rights Legislation” (YouTube)
       
      Instructions: Watch the final part, Topic 4, of this four-part presentation on affirmative action. By the late 1970s, federal affirmative action programs had been under attack in higher education. After a decade in practice, the policies have doubled the number of black students attending colleges and universities, yet some white applicants who were denied admission blamed affirmative action. In 1978, the Supreme Court heard a case filed by Allan Bakke, a man who had twice been denied admission to medical school at the University of California at Davis. He claimed that affirmative action policies had kept him out, thus violating his rights. The court’s decision was not clear-cut. It ruled that Bakke should be admitted to UC Davis, and it stated that affirmative action is permissible but not mandatory. For some Americans, the case is proof that the cost of remedying years of discrimination and inequities through affirmative action is too high. But for others, there is no doubt that the policies make a positive impact not only on the student, but also on the black community as a whole.
       
      Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Unit 4 Current Events Challenge  
  • Unit 4 Assessment  
    • Assessment: The Saylor Foundation’s “Unit 4 Assessment”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Unit 4 Assessment” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Complete this assessment. You must be logged into your Saylor Foundation School account in order to access this quiz. If you do not yet have an account, you will be able to create one, free of charge, after clicking the link.
       
      Completing this assessment should take approximately 1 hour.

  • Unit 5: Making Policy in the American Political System  

    After exploring the foundations, political behavior, and institutions of the American political system, this final unit looks at public policy in the United States, the place where all of these other components of the American political system intersect. The unit will begin by examining the general policy-making process and how each branch of government impacts American public policy. Then, we will take a deeper look into the three major realms of public policy – economic, social, and foreign affairs policy. In each of these realms, we will discuss theories of policy and then look closer at how policy has been implemented over time. This unit is a fitting way to end the course by demonstrating how everything that we’ve learned thus far comes together to shape the various public policies that impact American society as a whole.

    Unit 5 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 5 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 5.1 Policy Making  
    • Web Media: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Public Policy”

      Link: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Public Policy” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Use this PowerPoint as a reference as you watch the lectures “Public Policy I” and “Public Policy II” below.
       
      Reading this presentation and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource has been reposted with the kind permission of Dr. Patrick Scott. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

    • Lecture: YouTube: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Public Policy I” and “Public Policy II”

      Link: YouTube: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Public Policy I” (YouTube) and “Public Policy II” (YouTube)
       
      Also available in:
      iTunes U (Lecture 24 and 25)
       
      Instructions: Watch these lectures to gain some general understanding of important terms and concepts for this subunit; these lectures will cover material you will need ot know for the first three subunits of this unit. In any society, governmental entities enact laws, make policies, and allocate resources. This is true at all levels. Public policy can be generally defined as a system of laws, regulatory measures, courses of action, and funding priorities concerning a given topic promulgated by a governmental entity or its representatives. Individuals and groups often attempt to shape public policy through education, advocacy, or mobilization of interest groups. Shaping public policy is obviously different in Western-style democracies than in other forms of government, but it is reasonable to assume that the process always involves efforts by competing interest groups to influence policy makers in their favor.
       
      Watching these lectures and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: The material above has been reposted with the kind permission of Dr. Patrick Scott, and the original version can be found here. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

    • Reading: American Government and Politics in the Information Age: “Chapter 16: Policymaking and Domestic Policies”

      Link: American Government and Politics in the Information Age: “Chapter 16: Policymaking and Domestic Policies” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read Chapter 16 on pages 679-725. When government decides to act, it mostly does so through public policy, which is a specific course of action that government takes to address a problem, such as the federal budget deficit. A public policy can be conveyed to the public in the laws passed by Congress and signed by the president, opinions issued by the Supreme Court, and/or rules written by the executive branch. But whatever form it takes, a public policy tells the public who is about to get what, when, and how, from government. Though the authors of the text seem to applaud the Obama Administration on economic policy, the discussion and concepts discussed in the chapter provide you with the tools and constructs to critically evaluate whether you agree with the arguments and claims regarding the Obama Administration’s economic policies advanced in the text.
       
      Reading this chapter and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee.

    • Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 5.1 − Quickfire Quiz”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 5.1 − Quickfire Quiz” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Answer these questions to assess your understanding of this subunit.
       
      Completing this activity should take approximately 15 minutes.

  • 5.2 Economic Policy  

    “Economic policy” refers to the actions that governments take in order to influence the economy. In recent years, credit, mortgage, and regulatory policies have contributed to an economic crisis in the United States. Responding to the economic crisis, the government has become more involved in managing the economy than ever before. Monetary policy is mainly determined by the Federal Reserve Board. Fiscal policy is mainly made by the president’s economic advisors and Congress.

  • 5.2.1 Theories of Economic Policy  
  • 5.2.2 The Budget  
  • 5.2.3 Government Actions: Taxing and Spending  

    Tax collecting is one of the oldest activities of government. Today, the federal government gets most of its funds from payroll taxes (for Social Security and Medicare), personal and corporate income taxes, admission fees to federal parks, import taxes, fines, and revenue from the sale of federal products. Much of the federal government’s revenue is spent on benefit payments to individuals – Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other major social programs – and national defense. However, there are wide philosophical disagreements among elected officials and the general public on what the government should tax and pay for, and how much.

  • 5.3 Domestic Policy  
  • 5.3.1 History and Development of American Social Public Policy  
  • 5.3.2 Social Security: America’s Greatest Social Public Policy  
  • 5.3.3 Public Assistance Programs and Reform  
  • 5.3.4 Education Policy  
  • 5.3.5 Regulatory Policy  
    • Reading: Congressional Research Service: Curtis W. Copeland’s “Regulatory Reform in the 112th Congress”

      Link: Congressional Research Service: Curtis W. Copeland’s “Regulatory Reform in the 112th Congress” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read pages 1-12 of this report, which provides an introduction to the federal regulatory process and current rule-making requirements. Regulation – also known as rule making – is a major activity of government. Economic regulation aims to control the behavior of business in the marketplace. Social regulation aims to correct the unintended side effects of economic activity and to ensure equal rights in employment, housing, and the like. Reflect back on what you learned in Unit 3 about the bureaucracy and how it might play a major role in this type of public policy. Feel free to peruse some of the recently proposed bills on regulatory reforms by Congress.
       
      Reading this report and taking notes should take approximately 45 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

    • Optional Mobile App: Wonky Chart, LLC’s Wonky Chart

      Link: Wonky Chart LLC’s Wonky Chart (iOS app)
       
      Instructions: Open this optional app, which provides a variety of charts on nearly every aspect of federal economic policy – taxes, the budget, unemployment, income, wealth, and poverty. Please note that there is a cost associated with this app, which may be purchased for $0.99.
       
      Reading through this app should take approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage.

    • Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 5.3.5 − Quickfire Quiz”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 5.3.5 − Quickfire Quiz” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Answer these questions to assess your understanding of this subunit.
       
      Completing this activity should take approximately 15 minutes.

  • 5.4 Foreign and Defense Policy  
    • Web Media: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Foreign Policy”

      Link: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Foreign Policy” (PPT)
       
      Instructions: Use this PowerPoint as a reference as you watch the lectures “Foreign and Defense Policy I” and “Foreign and Defense Policy II” below.
       
      Watching these presentations and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource has been reposted with the kind permission of Dr. Patrick Scott. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

    • Lecture: YouTube: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Foreign and Defense Policy I” and “Foreign and Defense Policy II”

      Link: YouTube: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Foreign and Defense Policy I” (YouTube) and “Foreign and Defense Policy II” (YouTube)
       
      Also available in:
      iTunes U (Lecture 26 and 27)
       
      Instructions: Watch these two lectures on foreign and defense policy. Foreign policy refers to actions the United States government takes on behalf of its national interests abroad to ensure the security and wellbeing of Americans and the strength and competitiveness of the US economy. A secure group of citizens requires protection of recognized national boundaries, a strong economy, and a stable, orderly society. The Constitution lays out the institutional framework for foreign and defense policy that is clearly a federal power, not a power of the states. The Framers intended to divide responsibility for foreign affairs between the president and Congress.
       
      Watching these lectures and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: The material above has been reposted with the kind permission of Dr. Patrick Scott, and the original version can be found here. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

    • Reading: American Government and Politics in the Information Age: “Chapter 17: Foreign and National Security Policies”

      Link: American Government and Politics in the Information Age: “Chapter 17: Foreign and National Security Policies” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read Chapter 17 on pages 725-783. The United States has adopted many, sometimes competing, foreign policy goals over the years, from promoting peace in the Middle East to addressing the spread of HIV/AIDS. Today, it is putting its greatest interest in winning the war on terrorism and promoting trade in an increasingly global economy.
       
      Reading this chapter and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee.

  • 5.4.1 Making Foreign Policy: Key Players and Institutions  
  • 5.4.2 American Foreign Policy: Past, Present and Future  
  • 5.4.3 Global Policy Issues  
    • Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “Investment and Trade”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Investment and Trade” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read this article. After the fall of communism, the ensuing new world order situated the United States as the world’s sole superpower. Some of the emerging issues in this new order have included global investment, terrorism, the environment, and humanitarian aid.
       
      Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.

    • Optional Mobile App: USGLC’s US Global Leadership Coalition

      Link: USGLC’s US Global Leadership Coalition (iOS app)
       
      Instructions: Open this optional app, which features a number of up-to-date news articles on globalization and world development issues. Also included are updates on congressional action regarding the federal budget and international affairs funding, editorials, and videos.
       
      Reading through this optional app should take approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 5.4.4 Additional Resources  
    • Optional Mobile App: Brainscape’s US Government

      Link: Brainscape’s US Government (iOS app)
       
      Instructions: Open this optional app, which provides a library of topics that you’ve studied throughout this course – the Constitution, Congress, Supreme Court cases, elections, the presidency – and a vocabulary of essential terms and acronyms. This app is similar to a deck of flashcards, but it adapts to your own learning curve. When a new card is generated, you will be asked to think of the answer and then reveal it by flipping the card. The app will also ask how confident you feel that you will remember the concept and repeats “low-confidence” questions more frequently.
       
      Reading through all the flashcards should take approximately 2 hours.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Optional Mobile App: Pommier Pierre Etienne’s US Politics

      Link: Pommier Pierre Etienne’s US Politics (iOS app)
       
      Instructions: Open this optional app, which will provide you with a useful primer for the final exam by reviewing terms and key points studied throughout the course. It offers 20 videos and 200 repetition exercises on American politics.
       
      Reading through this optional app should take approximately 2 hours.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Unit 5 Current Events Challenge  
  • Unit 5 Assessment  
    • Assessment: The Saylor Foundation’s “Unit 5 Assessment”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Unit 5 Assessment” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Complete this assessment. You must be logged into your Saylor Foundation School account in order to access this quiz. If you do not yet have an account, you will be able to create one, free of charge, after clicking the link.
       
      Completing this assessment should take approximately 1 hour.

  • Final Exam