POLI SCI 001 (3 Units)

SECTION 31629 (M/W 7:45AM - 9:10AM), 
Room SS 51


Professor John Fraker, Esq.
Instructor of Political Science

Phone: (408) 644-4460

Office Hours:  Mondays, 9:30 - 10 a.m. or By Appointment

Office Hours to be held in

Social Sciences Workroom

Course Description

This course covers the structure and functions of the American national state and local governments. Emphasis is placed on the development of democratic institutions through historical and contemporary studies. Students will have an opportunity to understand what has shaped the United States Constitution, its amendments, major court interpretations, the operation of and one's role in democratic government.

This course may be used to meet the Social Science I or II requirement in the General Education Pattern for transfer to the California State University system.

Please read the welcome letter for this course by clicking here


Required Texts

American Government, James Q. Wilson & John J. DiIulio, Jr, (Wilson)

Real Deal Upgrade, CD-ROM, by Houghton Mifflin Co.

All Handout Materials

General Class Policies

  1. Cell phones and beepers must be turned off in the classroom.
  2. Save this syllabus as evidence for transfer to a four-year institution.
  3. Class participation and COMPLETING THE ASSIGNED READING by the beginning of each topic are essential to passing this course.  
  4. Tutoring is available at no charge at Tutorial Services.  It is provided by qualified, trained students who have been recommended by the faculty.  Contact Tutorial Services in the Library Building or call 741-2038.
  5. Quizzes may be administered by the Instructor without warning if he feels students are not keeping up with the readings.  Incorrect answers will be deducted from a student's overall participation grade.
  6. Plagiarism/cheating will be treated as automatic failures for the course and offenders will be referred to the CSSO for disciplinary action.  Familiarize yourself with the campus policy on cheating detailed in the College Catalogue under Student Conduct Code, 5.8.19 Policy on Cheating.

Attendance Policy

Regular attendance and punctuality is required and roll will be taken at the beginning of the class.  Tardy students will receive 1 point reduction in participation grade for each tardy.  More than one absence will constitute a reduction of 2 points for each additional absence.

Disability and Educational Support Program

West Valley College makes reasonable accommodations for persons with documented disabilities. College materials will be available in alternate formats (Braille, audio, electronic format, or large print) upon request. Please contact the Disability and Educational Support Program at (408) 741-2010 (voice) or (408) 741-2658 (TTY) for assistance.


Understanding American politics is about learning the major issues that policymakers face on a daily basis.  You will choose (in consultation with the Instructor) a major issue in need of a policy resolution.  You will research the issue thoroughly and write a 7-10 page paper explaining the topic's background, your position as to why it is a problem, and which level and institution of government is best qualified to resolve the issue.   (See attached assignment for more details.)

Class Participation

Class Participation is essential to the success of this class.  Students will be responsible for each day's reading assignment. Students who come to class unprepared to discuss that day's materials will be downgraded accordingly. Class Participation points will be awarded on the basis of how well individual students perform their duties and complete in-class assignments.

Course Requirements

Grading Policy

Grades are awarded on a Standard Scale:

1. Paper Outline
2. One 7-10 page paper 
3. Midterm Exam
4. Final examination 
5. Class Participation 
6. Have Fun! 

(50 pts)
(250 pts)
(300 pts)
(350 pts)
(50 pts)



1000 - 930
929 - 900
899 - 870
869 - 830
829 - 800
799 - 770



769 - 730
729 - 700
699 - 670
669 - 630
629 - 600
599 and below


Important Dates to Remember:

MONDAY 10/11

MONDAY 10/25



Paper Topic Outline Due


Major Paper Due

Final Examination (7:30-9:30 AM)

Course Outline and Reading Assignments


Wednesday, September 1 - Introduction to the Class



Monday, September 6 - NO CLASS (Labor Day Holiday)

Wednesday, September 8 - Lecture #1: The Study of American Government

Reading: Wilson, Chapter 1, The Study of American Government

The Declaration of Independence, in Appendix



Monday, September 13 - Lecture #2: The Constitution

Reading: Wilson, Chapter 2, The Constitution

The Constitution of the United States, in Appendix

Wednesday, September 15 - Lecture #3: The Constitution

Reading: Federalist No. 10, in Appendix

Federalist No. 51, in Appendix

The Bill of Rights, in Appendix



Monday September 20 - Lecture #5 & Lecture #4: Federalism

Reading: Wilson, Chapter 3, Federalism

McCulloch v. Maryland (1819), Real Deal Upgrade

President Jackson's Proclamation, in Handout

Wednesday, September 22 - Lecture #6: American Political Culture

Reading: Wilson, Chapter 4, American Political Culture



Monday, September 27 - Lecture #7 : U.S. Congress

Reading: Wilson, Chapter 11, Congress

Article I, the U.S. Constitution, in Appendix

Wednesday, September 29 - Lecture #8: U.S. Congress

Reading: Shaw v. Reno, Real Deal Upgrade

Immigration & Naturalization Services v. Chadha, Handout



Monday, October 4 -Lecture #9: The American President

Reading: Wilson, Chapter 12, The Presidency

George Washington, Farewell Address, Real Deal Upgrade

Abraham Lincoln, Emancipation Proclamation, Handout

Franklin D. Roosevelt, First Inaugural Address, Real Deal Upgrade

John F. Kennedy, Jr., Inaugural Address, Real Deal Upgrade

Wednesday, October 6 - Lecture #10: The American President

Reading:Clinton v. City of New York, Handout

United States v. Nixon, Handout



Monday, October 11 - Lecture #11: The Bureaucracy

Reading: Wilson, Chapter 13, The Bureaucracy

The Volcker Report: Urgent Business for America, in Handout

The Pendleton Act (Civil Service Act), Real Deal Upgrade

Wednesday, October 13 - Lecture #12: Administrative Law

Reading: Real Deal Upgrade, Chapter 13 Primary Documents



Monday, October 18 - Lecture #13: The Federal Judiciary & the Supreme Court

Reading: Wilson, Chapter 14, The Judiciary

Marbury v. Madison, Real Deal Upgrade

Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, Handout

Wednesday, October 20 - Lecture #14: The Federal Judiciary & the Supreme Court



Monday, October 25 - COURSE MIDTERM

Wednesday, October 27 - Lecture #15: Political Participation

Reading: Wilson, Chapter 6, Political Participation

Seneca Falls Declaration, Handout



Monday, November 1 - Lecture #16: Political Parties

Reading: Wilson, Chapter 7, Political Parties

1996 Democratic Party Platform, Real Deal Upgrade

1996 Republican Party Platform, Real Deal Upgrade

Wednesday, November 3 - Campaigns & Elections

Reading:Wilson, Chapter 8, Elections and Campaigns

Buckley v. Valeo, Real Deal Upgrade

McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Act, Real Deal Upgrade



Monday, November 8 - Lecture #17: Video: Presidential Bash 2000

Wednesday, November 10 - Lecture #18: Interest Groups

Reading: Wilson, Chapter 9, Interest Groups

Brady Handgun Control Act, Real Deal Upgrade



Monday, November 15 - Lecture #20: How Legislation is Made

Reading: Wilson, Chapter 15, The Policy-Making Process

Pure Food & Drug Act, Real Deal Upgrade

Wednesday, November 17 - Lecture #21: The Media

Reading: Wilson, Chapter 10, The Media

New York Times Co v. Sullivan, Real Deal Upgrade

New York Times Co. v. United States, Real Deal Upgrade



Monday, November 22 - Lecture #22: Civil Liberties (Free Speech)

Reading: Wilson, Chapter 18, Civil Liberties

Justice Holmes' Dissent, Abrams v. U.S., in Handout

New York Times Co. v. United States, Real Deal Upgrade

PruneYard v. Robbins, in Handout

Wednesday, November 24 - Lecture #23: Civil Liberties (Church & State)

Reading: Jeffersonís Letter to the Danbury Baptist Association, in Handout

George Washington, Farewell Address, Real Deal Upgrade

Engel v. Vitale, Real Deal Upgrade
Sherbert v. Verner, Real Deal Upgrade



Monday, November 29 - Lecture #24: Civil Liberties (Due Process)

Reading: Mapp v. Ohio, Real Deal Upgrade

Gideon v. Wainwright, Real Deal Upgrade

Miranda v. Arizona, Real Deal Upgrade

Wednesday, December 1 - Lecture #25: Civil Rights

Reading:Wilson, Chapter 19, Civil Rights

Dred Scot v. Sandford, Real Deal Upgrade

Plessy v. Ferguson, in Handout



Monday, December 6 - Lecture #26: Civil Rights ** Course Paper Due Today!

Reading: Korematsu v. United States, in Handout

Brown v. Board of Education I, Real Deal Upgrade

Brown v. Board of Education II, Real Deal Upgrade


Wednesday, December 8 - Lecture #27: Civil Rights

Reading: Civil Rights Act of 1964, in Handout

Yick Wo v. Hopkins, in Handout

Bakke v. Regents of the University of California, in Handout



Monday, December 13 - FINAL REVIEW

Wednesday, December 15 - Final Exam (7:30-9:30 AM)