West Valley College Winter 2018

Sec. 10042 (3 Units)

Tim Kelly, Ph.D.
Office Hours:  On Campus By Appointment
Office SS1E
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?  Why was there a recall election in California?  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 for the assignment 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.  

Pass/No Pass Option and Dropping

Students can no longer take Politics 1 with the Pass/No Pass grade option.  

In addition, 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

You are required to take 14 quizzes (2 of which will be counted as Extra Credit), a midterm, and a final.  ALL QUIZZES AND EXAMS ARE CONDUCTED ONLINE.

You may take the QUIZZES whenever you wish provided that you complete them within the DUE DATES (listed below.)  You MAY NOT make-up a missed quiz after the due dates.  Quiz questions will be drawn from the assigned textbook readings for the week.

You may take the MIDTERM and FINAL any time between the three days that they are offered, but once you start the exams, you must complete them within the allowed time.  SEE CALENDAR DUE DATES BELOW.

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.  You can (and SHOULD) take practice quizzes at the publisher's web page for the assigned chapters at

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 are essay format and will be explained in Study Guides that are currently posted on the lecture web page.

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 14 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.

Threaded Discussions

Every week at least two threaded discussions will be posted based on the online readings, something in the textbook, or current events in the news. Click on the Discussions link on the Canvas page, 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.

How to Read the Lectures


You are required to turn in one paper analyzing the debates presented in the online readings.  This 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

JANUARY 11-13:
Last Day to Drop w/out a "W"
Last Day to Drop w/ a "W"
Paper Due

FINAL EXAM SCHEDULE JANUARY 23 (Tuesday) - 25 (Thursday) (Availability ends 1/25 at 11:59 pm)


Course Outline

WEEKS I and II (January 2 - 13)

QUIZZES:  Chapters 1-6 must be completed by Friday, January 12 at 11:59 pm.

DISCUSSIONS:    Defining Democracy (Zinn vs. Hook) (Closes WEDNESDAY, 1/10)
Is the Party Over for California Republicans? (Closes WEDNESDAY, 1/10)
                                Criminal Rights (Gavzer vs. Kilwein) (Closes Saturday, 1/
Birthright Citizenship:  Is it the Right Policy for America? (Feere vs. Cohen) (Closes Saturday, 1/13)
                                Public Opinion Polls (Newport vs. Weissberg) (Closes Saturday, 1/1

MIDTERM:  January 11-13 (availability ends SATURDAY, 1/13 at 11:59 pm)


Lecture 1:  What is American Politics?

Readings:  Text, Ch 1; ONLINE:  Howard Zinn, How Democratic Is America?; Sidney Hook, A Response to Howard Zinn

Lecture 2A:  Understanding the 2016 Election:  An Early Assessment 

Lecture 2B:  Contemporary Issues in California Politics

Readings:  ONLINE:  Michael Blood, California GOP Showing Worries Party Strategists

Lecture 3:  The U.S. Constitution:  Rules of the Political Game 

Readings:  Text, Ch 2;  ONLINE:  Robert Brown, Charles Beard and the Constitution:  A Critical Analysis

Lecture 4:  American Federalism:  Eighty-Seven Thousand Governments

Readings:  Ch 3

Lecture 5:  Civil Liberties in America
Lecture 6:  Civil Liberties and the War on Terrorism

Readings:  Text, Ch 4; ONLINE:  Criminal Rights (Gavzer vs. Kilwein)(pdf); Darius Rejali, 5 Myths About Torture and Truth; Matt Apuzzo, et. al., Does Torture Work?  The CIA's Claims and What the Committee Found

Lecture 7:  The Politics of Civil Rights:  Race and Ethnicity
Lecture 8:  The Politics of Civil Rights:  Gender, Sexual Orientation, and Persons with Disabilities

Readings:  Text, Ch  5; ONLINE:  Birthright Citizenship:  Is it the Right Policy for the U.S.? (Jon Feere, NO vs. J. Richard Cohen, YES - pdf)

Lecture 9:  Public Opinion and Political Socialization

Readings:  Text, Ch 6; ONLINE:  Frank Newport, Polling Matters (pdf); Robert Weissberg, Leaders Should Not Follow Public Opinion Polls




WEEKS III and IV (January 14 - 25)

PAPER DUE:  SATURDAY, January 20 by 11:59 pm

QUIZZES:  Chapters 7-14 and 16 must be completed by THURSDAY, January 25  at 11:59 pm.

DISCUSSIONS:    Does Citizens United Threaten Democracy or Enhance It (Dworkin vs. Glasser)? (Closes Saturday, 1/20)
Should Voters Be Required to Present Identification (Davidson vs. von Spakovsky)? (Closes Saturday, 1/20)
Presidential Power:  Signing Statements (see online links above) (Closes Wednesday, 1/24)
                                Original Intent and the Role of Judges (Meese vs. Kaufman) (Closes Wednesday, 1/24)
Can Trump Deliver on the Foreign Policy Promises He Made in the Campaign? (online) (Closes Thursday, 1/25)

EXTRA CREDIT:  Student Learning Outcome, January 23-25 Quiz (closes Thursday, 1/25 at 11:59 pm)

FINAL EXAM:  January 23-25 (availability ends THURSDAY, 1/25 at 11:59 pm)


Lecture 10:  Political Parties in America

Readings:  Text, Ch 8

Lecture 11:  Interest Group Politics

Readings:  Text, Ch 7; ONLINERonald Dworkin, The Decision That Threatens Democracy; Ira Glasser, Understanding the Citizens United Ruling; Matt Bai, How Much Has Citizens United Changed the Political Game? (pdf)

Lecture 12:  Campaigns and Elections in America
Lecture 13:  The Media and Politics

Readings:   Text, Ch 9, 10; ONLINE:  Voter ID Laws {Chandler Davidson, The Historical Context of Voter Photo-ID Laws; Hans von Spakovsky, Requiring Identification by Voters (pdf)}; 

Lecture 14:  Congressional Politics

Readings:  Text, Ch 11; ONLINE:  Congressional Representation readings [Trustee, Delegate and Politico (pdf)]

Lecture 15:  Presidential Politics

Readings:   Text, Ch 12; Online:  Bush 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)

Lecture 16:  The Federal Judiciary

Readings:  Text, Ch 14; ONLINE:  Edwin Meese, The Great Debate:  A Jurisprudence of Original Intention; Irving Kaufman, What Did the Founding Fathers Intend?

Lecture 17:  Bureaucratic Politics

Readings:  Text, Ch 13; ONLINE:  Wedel, Federalist No. 70:  Where Does the Public Service Begin and End? (pdf); Cato Handbook for Policymakers, Privatization (pdf)

Lecture 18:  Politics and American Foreign Policy

Readings:  Text, Ch 16;  ONLINESestanovich, "The Brilliant Incoherence of Trump's Foreign Policy"