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Begun as an experiment over 200 years ago, the United States has grown into a polity that is simultaneously praised and condemned, critiqued and mythologized, modeled by others and remodeled itself. This course introduces students to the dynamics and tensions that have animated the American political order and that have nurtured these conflicting assessments. Topics include the founding of the American system and the primary documents (the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Federalist Papers), the primary institutions of national government then and now (Congress, the Presidency, and the Supreme Court), and the politics of policy-making in the United States. We study structures, processes, key events, and primary actors that have shaped American political development. In investigating these topics, we explore questions such as these: How is power allocated? What produces political change? Is there is a trade-off between democratic accountability and effective governance? How are tensions between liberty and equality resolved? Do the institutions produce good policies, and how do we define what is good?
Format: lecture; For fall 2020, this course will be taught remotely, with twice-weekly synchronous Zoom sessions as a class, occasional recorded mini-lectures for asynchronous viewing, and perhaps a few small group Zoom sessions for further discussion.
Grading: no pass/fail option,
yes fifth course option
two 5-7 page essays, one 4 page reflection, two 2 page reading responses, a final essay or exam, and class participation
this is an introductory course, open to first-year students and sophomores; juniors and seniors may enroll only with the permission of instructor and under special circumstances
first-years and sophomores
POEC Required Courses
PSCI American Politics Courses