West Valley College Summer 2017

Sec. 50046 (3 Units) 

Tim Kelly, Ph.D.
Office Hours:  On Campus By Appointment
Ph: (408) 741-2546
Tim Kelly's E-mail address



Why do a majority of Americans not vote?  Why is it that the winner of the popular vote for President can also be the loser?  Is there really a difference between Democrats and Republicans?  Do we really need 50 state governments if we have a Federal Government?  Don't know much about American politics?  Then welcome to Poli Sci 1!

Poli Sci 1 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.

Additional topics this course will explore are the following:

Required Texts

General Course Policies

  1. Print out this syllabus as evidence for transfer to a four-year institution.
  2. Participation on the group discussion board and COMPLETING THE ASSIGNED READING by the beginning of each topic are essential to passing this course.
  3. 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.
  4. ***Plagiarism/cheating will be treated as automatic failures 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.  (You will find examples of what plagiarism is and how to avoid it at***
  5. 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.
  6. Student Learning Outcome:  As part of the final exam, students will answer 25 multiple choice questions representing the breadth of American government topics covered in the course.  

Dropping the Course

Students who wish to be dropped from the course are responsible for doing this on their own.  I will not do this for you.  If you stop logging on to Canvas but your name is on my roster at the end of the semester, you will receive an "F" in the class with no opportunities to change this to a "W."  Once you log on to Canvas you will be counted as attending the class and so will not be dropped as a first day No Show.

Quizzes and Exams

The course consists of 14 quizzes (2 of the lowest scores being dropped and added back as Extra Credit), a midterm, and a final.  ALL QUIZZES AND EXAMS ARE CONDUCTED ONLINE on the Canvas server.

You may take the QUIZZES whenever you wish within the assigned time frame of their availability.

Each quiz is based on the corresponding chapter that is assigned in the Bardes textbook for that week.  You will have 20 minutes to complete 15 questions (once you begin the quiz, you must complete it within 20 minutes).  You MAY NOT make-up a missed quiz after the due dates.  

Once you take the quiz, the system will give you an immediate score; however, you can only fully review your quiz for the correct answers once the quiz period is complete (i.e., when all of the quizzes are due).  NOTE:  I do allow you to immediately see your completed quiz for Quiz 1 so that you can get immediate feedback before moving on to the other quizzes.

Your Midterm and Final exams will be explained in Study Guides posted on the Lectures web page.  

IF A PROBLEM OCCURS:  Students are encouraged not to wait until the last day to take a quiz (which will be available for the entire week).  If a problem occurs with the system or your computer (and let's face it - such problems DO occur from time to time), contact me ASAP.  I will help you solve the problem.  If, however, you wait until the final day (or worse, the final hours) and a problem arises, I cannot guarantee that I will be able to help you before the deadline (you take that risk upon yourself by waiting so long to take the quiz).

Threaded Discussions

You will have TEN discussions that you are required to participate in through Canvas.  These discussions will be based on the online readings, something in the textbook, or current events. Click on the Discussions icon on the Canvas page and read the topic statement and then post your comments. You may respond to the instructor's statement or any other comment made by other students.  You MUST participate in each of these discussions in order to receive credit for your participation.  More instructions are posted on Canvas.  See Due Dates below for each discussion topic.

Extra Credit

Your two lowest scored quizzes (which includes a missed quiz scored as zero) that are dropped will be added back into your total score as Extra Credit.  The incentive here is to take ALL of the quizzes (not just the 12 required) and do the best you can on them all.  In addition, the Student Learning Outcome quiz at the end of the semester will be worth 25 extra credit points.

How to Read the Lectures


You are required to turn in one paper analyzing a debate topic that you will choose from a list provided by the instructor.  The paper is 220 points and is  explained in more detail HERE.  

Course Requirements

Grading Policy:   Grades are awarded on a Standard Scale:

1. One paper
2. 12 Quizzes
3. Midterm Exam
4. Final examination
5. List-Serve Participation
(220 pts)
(180 pts)
(250 pts)
(300 pts)
(50 pts)

1000 - 900
899 - 800
799 - 700
699 - 600
599 and below

Dates to Remember

June 14:
JUNE 29 - JULY 1:
July 12 (Wed):
Last Day to Drop w/out a "W"
Last Day to Drop w/ a "W"
JULY 12:
July 19-21:
JULY 19-21:
Paper Due
SLO Quiz (Extra Credit)

FINAL EXAM SCHEDULE:     JULY 19-21 (Availability ends FRIDAY, 7/21 at 11:59 pm)

Course Outline

WEEKS I, II, and III (6/12 - 7/01)

What is American Politics? Text, Ch 1; ONLINE:  Howard Zinn, How Democratic Is America?; Sidney Hook, A Response to Howard Zinn
Contemporary Issues in California Politics Michael Blood, California GOP Showing Worries Party Strategists
The U.S. Constitution:  Rules of the Political Game
Text, Ch 2; ONLINE:  Robert Brown, Charles Beard and the Constitution:  A Critical Analysis; Charles Beard, An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States
American Federalism:  Eighty-Seven Thousand Governments Text, Ch 3
Civil Liberties in America Text, Ch 4; ONLINE:  Criminal Rights (Gavzer vs. Kilwein)(pdf)
Civil Liberties and the War on Terrorism Darius Rejali, 5 Myths About Torture and Truth; Matt Apuzzo, et. al., Does Torture Work?  The CIA's Claims and What the Committee Found
The Politics of Civil Rights Text, Ch  5; ONLINE:  Birthright Citizenship:  Is it the Right Policy for the U.S.? (Jon Feere, NO vs. J. Richard Cohen, YES - pdf)
"If the Election Were Held Today":  Understanding Public Opinion Text, Ch 6; ONLINE:  Frank Newport, Polling Matters (pdf); Robert Weissberg, Leaders Should Not Follow Public Opinion Polls

QUIZZES:  Chapters 1-6 must be completed by SATURDAY, July 1 at 11:59 pm.


MIDTERM:  JUNE 29 - JULY 1 (availability ends 7/01 at 11:59 pm)

WEEKS IV and V (7/02 - 7/15)

Political Parties in America Text, Ch 8
Interest Group Politics
Text, Ch 7; ONLINERonald Dworkin, The Decision That Threatens Democracy; Ira Glasser, Understanding the Citizens United Ruling
Campaigns and Elections in America Text, Ch 9; ONLINE:  Voter ID Laws {Chandler Davidson, The Historical Context of Voter Photo-ID Laws; Hans von Spakovsky, Requiring Identification by Voters (pdf)}
"The Mother's Milk of Politics:"  Financing the Modern Campaign ONLINEMatt Bai, How Much Has Citizens United Changed the Political Game? (pdf)
Congressional Politics Text, Ch 11; ONLINE:  Congressional Representation readings [Trustee, Delegate and Politico (pdf)]
Presidential Politics Text, Ch 12; ONLINEBush Quietly Undercuts Laws With Bill-Signing Statement (SJ Mercury News); Signing Statement Study Says Administration Has Ignored Laws (Washington Post); Obama Signing Statement:  Despite Law, I Can Do What I Want On Czars" (The Daily Caller)

PAPER DUE:  WEDNESDAY, July 12 by 11:59 pm

QUIZZES:  Chapters 7-11 must be completed by SATURDAY, July 15 at 11:59 pm.


WEEK VI (7/16 - 7/21)

The Federal Judiciary
Text, Ch 14; ONLINE:  Edwin Meese, The Great Debate:  A Jurisprudence of Original Intention; Irving Kaufman, What Did the Founding Fathers Intend?
Bureaucratic Politics Text, Ch 13; ONLINE:  Wedel, Federalist No. 70:  Where Does the Public Service Begin and End? (pdf); Cato Handbook for Policymakers, Privatization (pdf)
Politics and American Foreign Policy Text, Ch 16; ONLINESestanovich, "The Brilliant Incoherence of Trump's Foreign Policy"

QUIZZES:  Chapters 12, 13, and 15 must be completed by THURSDAY, July 20 at 11:59 pm.

EXTRA CREDIT:  Student Learning Outcome Quiz (7/19-7/21)


FINAL EXAM:  July 19 - 21 (availability ends FRIDAY, 7/21 at 11:59 pm)