• AP U.S. Government and Politics Syllabus


    Textbooks and resources:

    Edwards, George; Wattenberg, Martin; Lindberry, Robert. Government in America:

    People, Politics, and Policy, 10th edition, Pearson Longman, 2006


    Woll, Peter, American Government: Readings and Cases, 15th edition, Pearson Longman, 2004


    *Supplemental Readings and Resources: Numerous readings from articles, book excerpts, and various websites and some research via the internet will be required.

    *General Course Description and Expectations: Advance Placement U.S. Government and Politics will give students an analytic perspective on government and politics in the United States. This course includes both the studies of general concepts used to interpret U.S. politics and the analysis of specific contemporary examples. It also requires students to familiarize themselves with the various institutions, groups, beliefs, and ideas that constitute our political system.

    *”Too many high school students have been trained that everything important (testable) will be dealt with directly in class. Hence, they’ve developed a ‘class reliant’ style which limits their learning. A teacher cannot possibly cover the whole AP course syllabus within the confines of class periods.” (College Board: Teacher’s Guide for AP United States Government and Politics). In order to meet the expectations of a college-level course and to be prepared for the AP National Exam, students must meet the high expectations for the course and share the responsibility for mastery of the course objectives. This involves the careful study of the textbook and other assigned readings, class participation, cooperation and collaboration, as well as the knowledge and application of current examples of American politics. This is a reading and writing intensive course. Students are expected to read, understand, analyze, and interpret the assigned readings as well as maps, charts, tables, graphs, and political cartoons which are included in the readings and textbook.



    Unit I: Government, Politics, Policymaking and the Political Landscape

    What is government? What is the purpose of government? What should government do and how should it do it? What is Laswell’s definition of politics and what does the definition imply? What is the policymaking system and how does an issue get on the policy agenda? What are some of the theories of political systems, democracy and American democracy? What makes ‘us’ the U.S.? With all the factors that divide us-religion, race, income, ethnicity, geographic regions, language, gender, age, ideology, family structure, wealth, social status, etc-what unites us? Are there core democratic values upon which we can agree? What is our political and conceptual framework for our study of government and politics?


    Assignments, activities, and assessments:

                Textbook chapter one and six, pages 174-180, 192-196

                Students analyze demographic information on charts, and graphs and identify

                            five issues that may cause political conflict based upon the data in the

                            charts and graphs.

                Articles “Four of a Kind” and “Color Scheme” from Sports Illustrated


                Students take a political survey and ‘plot’ their ideological point on a class graph

                Students go to the U.S. Census Bureau website to identify the Census Bureau’s

                            categories for race and the difference between race and origin

                Quiz over chapter 1


    Unit II: Constitutional Underpinnings

    What are some of the best attributes of humanity? How do you fashion a government that minimizes the impact of the negative qualities of humanity and, at the same time, maximizes the opportunity for the positive qualities of humanity to flourish? What type of values and principles do you thing government should promote and protect? What type of government is necessary to accomplish this? Is it acceptable for the freedoms that the society enjoys to contradict your personal values? What are the limits to freedom, equality, and government power? How do you create a government that will control the governed and control itself? What political philosophies are the bases for the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution? Why were the Articles of Confederation ineffective and how did the Constitution address those deficiencies? If you get married in Massachusetts and move to Texas, are you still married? What is federalism? What re some of the advantages and disadvantages to federalism?


    Assignments, activities, and assessments:

                Textbook chapters 2-3, The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution of the

                            United States of America, Federalists #10 and #52

                Introduction on how to read an abbreviated Supreme Court decision. South

                            Dakota v. Dole, How is this an example of both federalism and the

                            policymaking system?

                            Woll #10, McCulloch v. Maryland

                            U.S. v. Lopez

                            Woll #13, U.S. v. Morrison

                            Short excerpts from Michael Kammen The Nature of American

                                        Constitutionalism and Forrest McDonald Novus Ordo Seclorum

                            Quizzes over chapter 2 and 3 and the Supreme Court Cases

                            Test #1, 40-50 multiple choice questions and two Free Response

                                        Questions (AP Exam questions, 2000 #1 and 2001#1)


    Unit III: Federal Courts

    Who are Harriet Miers, John Roberts, and Samuel Alito? What impact has the Supreme Court had in U.S. history? What impact does it have in your life? How do you get to be a judge in the federal court system or a justice on the Supreme Court and why do you get a lifetime appointment? What are the criteria for federal court judges and justices of the Supreme Court? How is the Congress involved in the approval of judges and justices? Do interest groups influence the selection of members of the federal courts? Is the Supreme Court ‘above’ politics? Can you really take your case ‘all the way to the Supreme Court’ if you want to? What can happen when Congress is on recess? Is the Constitution a ‘living document’? How do you interpret the Constitution? How does the Court arrive at decisions? What does ‘necessary and proper’ mean? What impact do federal elections have on Court appointees? Does the Supreme Court make public policy?


    Assignments, activities, and assessments:

                Textbook chapter 16

                Woll # 68, Marbury v. Madison

                Interpreting the Constitution: ‘For Strict Construction’ Edwin Meese III, ‘For

                            Loose Construction’ William J. Brennan, Jr.

                Chapter 16 quiz

                Peer and teacher evaluation of discussion and understanding of news articles like

                            the ones listed below:

                            New York Times, “Bypassing Senate for 2nd Time, Bush Seats Judge”

                            2-21-04, “Strategists See Victory in Stalemate Over Nominee”, “New

                            Doubts From Conservatives on Nominee for Supreme Court” 10-6-05,

                            “Bush Criticized Over Emphasis on Religion of Nominee” 10-13-05,

                            “Bush’s Court Choice Ends Bid: Conservatives Attacked Miers” 10-

                            28-05, “In Alito, GOP Reaps, Harvest Planted in ‘82” 1-30-06

                            Washington Post, “Bush Will Renominate 20 Judges: 12-24-04, “The

                            Sales Calls Begin on Capital Hiss, But Some Aren’t Buying”, Nomination

                            Was Plagued By Missteps From the Start” 10-28-05, “Televisions Ad War

                            on Alito Begins” 11-18-05

                Test # 2, 50 multiple Choice and 2 free response questions (2005#1, 2000#2)


    Unit IV: Civil Liberties and Civil Rights

    Do you know your rights? Can a state restrict your rights? Why or why not? What is incorporation? Do you support affirmative action? Can we have student-led prayers over the PA system at football games? Can the police search your car if they stop you for speeding? Why is freedom of speech important and what does burning the American flag have to do with it? Should evolution or intelligent design or both be taught in science class in public schools? Do you have a right to privacy? Is the death penalty cruel and unusual punishment? Should gay marriage be legal? Should women have a right to an abortion? When can the law treat people differently? Can you be held indefinitely in custody without a trial or access to a lawyer? What are the limits on the establishment of religion or the free exercise thereof?


    Assignments, activities, and assessments:

                Text chapter 4 & 5

                Griswold v. Connecticut

                Woll # 24, Roe v. Wade

                Woll # 72-74, Planned Parenthood v. Casey

                Woll # 22, Engel v. Vitale

                Woll # 23, Zelman v. Simmons-Harris

                Santa Fe v. Doe

                Sherbert v. Verner

                Employment Division v. Smith

                University of California v. Bakke

                Gratz v. Bollinger

                Grutter  v. Bollinger

                Excerpts from Simple Justice

                Woll # 19-20, Brown v. Board of Education

                Peer and teacher evaluation of student presentations of cases listed above and

                            of written assignments related to cases

                Test # 3, 40-50 multiple choice, two free response questions (1998 #3, 2001 #3)


    Unit V: The Other Institutions: Congress, the Presidency, and the Bureaucracy

    What is the difference between the House of Representatives and the Senate? What is ‘pork barrel’? What is divided government? Why is Congress so slow in getting anything done? Can the President declare war? If not, why are we at war? How can the Congress check the power of the President and how can the President get around Congress’s efforts? What is the difference between an executive agreement, an executive order and an executive signing statement? How is Congress organized? What is ‘going public’? Why are mid-term elections important? What roles does the President play? What qualities or characteristics do you look for in a President? What characteristics-race, religion, gender, etc. would cause you to not vote for a Presidential candidate? What role do political parties play in Congress? Can the President make laws? How does a bill become law…really? Why are the President’s approval ratings important for him to achieve his agenda goals? What does the bureaucracy actually do? What are the formal and informal powers of the President? How are these institutions involved in making public policy?


    Assignments, activities, and assessments:

                Textbook chapters 12-13, 15

                Woll #59 “The Rise of the Washington Establishment:, #63 “If, as Ralph Nader

                Says, Congress is ‘The Broken Branch,’ How Come We Love Our Congressmen

                So Much?”, #66 “Home Style and Washington Career”, #65 “Congress: The

                Electoral Connection”, #47 “The Presidency-Focus of Leadership”, #48

                “Presidential Power”, #49 “Presidential Paradoxes:, #57 “The Rise of the

                Bureaucratic State”

                ‘Ten Things I Wish Political Scientists Would Teach About Congress”

                            Lee Hamilton

                Washington Post, “GOP Dishes Out Port in Growing Portions” 11-24-03, “GOP

                Moderates Ouster Widens House Divide” 11-12-06, “No Bill Too Small for GOP

                Incumbents in Tight Races” 1-2-06, “Appalachia is paying Price for White House

                Rule Change” 8-17-04, “Is America to Racists for Barrack? Too Sexists for

                Hillary?” 11-12-06

                New York Times, “Congress Tells Auditor In Iraq to Close Office” 11-3-06,

                “Democrats Aim to Save Inquiry on Work in Iraq” 11-12-06, “Out of Spotlight,

                Bush Overhauls U.S. Regulations” 8-14-04

                “Democracy on Drugs” A report by Common Cause

                Boston Globe, “Bush Challenges Hundreds of Laws” 4-30-06, “Civil Rights

                Hiring Shifted in Bush Era” 7-23-06

                Harper’s Magazine, “The Great American Port Barrel”, July 2006

                Written assignments and seminars over the assigned readings

                Take home free response questions (2006 #4, 2002 #1)

                Test on Congress, 60 multiple choice and two free response (2003 #4, 2001 #2)

                Test on the Presidency and Bureaucracy, 50 multiple choice questions and two

                free response (2004 #1, 2003 #1)


    Unit VI: Political Socialization and Participation and the Media

    What are the agents of political socialization? Who participates in the political process and how do they participate? How is public opinion made known? Is public opinion important and what impact does it have on public policy? How are polls used? What are the characteristics of a trustworthy poll? What is push polling? What are common problems or errors with polls? What are the various types of media? How is the mass media organized and why is this important? What is the impact of the news media? Where do you get your news? What are the advantages and disadvantages of 24/7 continuous news cycle? What is the relationship between the media, government and politics?


    Assignments, activities, and assessments:

                Textbook, chapters 6-7

                Class Handouts: “They’ve Got Your Number”, “When Push Comes to Poll”,

                            “Echo Chambers of Horrors:, “Oligopoly”, The Big Media Game Has

                            Fewer and Fewer Players”, “Mr. Chairman, We’ve Got a Problem”

                The Gallup Organization: FAQs and “Gender, Marriage Gaps Evident in Vote

                            For Congress” 10-11-02

                New York Times, “Buying of News by Bush’s Aides is Ruled Illegal” 10-1-05,

                “Candidates Most Telling When They Aren’t Talking”10-1-04, “Talk Shows

                Prove Key to White House” 10-21-02, “White House Keeps Grip on Its News”

                10-14-02, “How Photos Became Icon of Civil Rights Movement” 8-28-05

                Washington Post, “The Post on WMDs: an Insiders Story” 8-12-4, “New Media

                a Weapon in New World of Politics” 10-6-06, “Family’s TV Clout in Bush’s

                Corner” 10-12-04

                Wall Street Journal, “Through Al-Jazeera’s Eyes” 4-10-03, “Battle for Viewers

                Colors TV Picture Coverage From Iraq” 4-4-03, “Name That Op: How U.S.

                Coins Phrases of War” 3-24-03

                Salon.com, “Fake News, Fake Reporter” 2-10-05, “No Pundit Left Behind” 1-12- 05, “Right-Wing Pundits: We’re Not on the Bush Payroll” 1-27-05

                Students assigned various articles to read and discuss in groups and then move

                to different groups to share the main points of the articles they read and provide

                written responses to assigned questions.

                Media analysis assignment: Students write an essay explaining how articles they

                have provided demonstrate the interrelationship between the media, government,

                politics, and policymaking.


    Unit VII: Campaigns and Elections

    What is a caucus? Why are Iowa and New Hampshire so important so early in the race for the presidential nominations? How do you get to be a candidate for president? How can you get the most votes for president and still loose the election? Is that fair? Should the Electoral College be preserved or abolished? How much does it cost to run for Congress or the Presidency? What is soft money? What is the difference between reapportionment and redistricting and what do they have to do with the census? What is the difference between a plurality and a majority? What role do the media play in campaigns and elections? What happens if there is no majority or a tie in the Electoral College? How does the Electoral College influence campaigning? If you’re a Democrat in Texas, why doesn’t your vote for President count?


    Assignments, activities, and assessments:

                Textbook, chapters 9-10

                In-class free response question (2005 #4)

                Students analyze and interpret maps drawn to show importance of states based                              upon electoral votes, media coverage, red and blue states on a ‘regular’                            day compared to an electoral college map and compared to red and

                            blue counties.

                Students use “Savvy voter-Dissect an Ad” (www.pbs.org/elections/savvyvoter)

                and factcheck.org to write an essay analyzing a political ad

                Electoral College quiz

                Opensecrets.org, Federal Campaign Finance Law

                “Abolish the Electoral College by Becky Cain, “Preserve the Electoral College”

                by Judith Best

                USA Today, “Electoral Math Offers a Number of Nightmares” 9-3-04

                Washington Post, “Democracy in Action-and also “Sixth Grade Gym, “Iowa

                            Caucus Primer”, Carter Put It On the Map and Iowa Hasn’t Budged

                            Since: 1-19-04, “Candidates Narrow Focus to 18 States” 3-14-04, “In

                            Ohio, a Battle of the Databases” 9-26-06, “GOP Redirects Funds from

                            Faltering Races” 10-13-06, “Dementia and the Voter” 9-15-04, “Outside

                            Groups Shoveling Cash Into Tight Races” 10-3-06, “GOP Leans on a

                            Proven Strategy” 10-26-06, “Images in Ads Outpace Words in New

                            Hampshire” 1-22-04

                New York Times, “Early Flood of Political Ads Saturates Airwaves in Iowa”

                            12-4-03, “One Nation Indivisible, but Some of It Invisible” 9-30-04,

                            “The Poll Tax Updated”10-7-04, “Playing With Election Rules” 9-

                            30-04, “GOP Tries to Use Marriage Ruling to Rally Base” 10-26-06.


    Unit VIII: Political Parties and Interest Groups

    What is the difference between a Democrat, a Republican, and an Independent? Which one are you? Why do we have a two-party system? What influence do 3rd or minor parties have? What role do political parties play in our political system? How are political parties organized? What is an interest group and how does it differ from a political party? What influence do interest groups have in our political system and how do they accomplish their goals? What does a lobbyist do?


    Assignments, activities, and assessments:

                Textbook chapters 8 & 11

                Excerpt from Storming the Gates

                Time magazine, “Why No One Shoots Straight with Guns”

                Opensecrest.org, “Gun Control v. Gun Rights”

                www.csuchico.edu, Political Advocacy Groups, students investigate an interest

                            group and identify their goals and how they accomplish their goals

                Center for Public Integrity, “527 FAQs”

                Washington Post, “Advocacy Groups Blur Media Lines” 12-6-04, “Lawmakers,

                            Lobbyists Keep in Constant Contact” 6-28-04

                New York Times, “Advocacy Groups Step Up Costly Battle in Political Ads” 9-


                In-class free response questions (2006 #1, 2002 #3)

                Test- 60 multiple choice questions, two free response questions (2004 #2 & #3)


    Unit IX: Public Policy

    How are all the aspects of the political system we have studies involved in public policy? Who has the ‘upper hand’ in domestic and foreign policy and why? Does the federal budget reflect policy priorities? How does the Congress and the President resolve differences in policy objectives? How can Congress influence the President’s foreign and defense policy? How can the President influence Congress’s domestic policy objectives? Why doesn’t every one in the U.S. have health care? Do you want to protect the environment or jobs? Can you do both? Do you expect to receive Social Security when you retire?


    Assignments, activities, and assessments:

                Textbook chapters 17-20

                Class chooses one domestic policy and one foreign policy issue to research and

                            discuss in class

                In-class free response questions (2006 #2 & 3, 2002 #2, 2001 #4, 1999 #4)