AP United States Government and Politics 2013-2014

Jonathan Milner
My e-mail milnerj@uncsa.edu
Our class Twitter Feed

(336) 770-3245 (UNCSA High School Office)
Office Hours: M, T, Th, F: 10:15-11:15; Wednesday, by appointment
Office 211 Gray Building
Classroom 307 Gray Building
Jonathan Milner

Welcome to AP US Government and Politics: AP GoPo! In this class, I will be a facilitator who will ask you hard questions, prompt your own questions, and point you towards answers. It’s going to be great fun collaborating as we learn more about the vital world of politics. I’ve been teaching politics for over 15 years and practicing it even longer. I love politics and I think you will too.

This year we will not just learn politics; we will also do politics. As Goethe said, “Thinking is easy, acting is difficult, and to put one’s thoughts into action is the most difficult thing in the world.” I hope that by mixing theory, facts, relevant contemporary issues, and opportunities to act on your knowledge you will have the tools necessary to become political. So sit back, relax, and get political. It’s not just a class; it’s reality.

Critical Questions and Skills
A number of critical questions animate this course. We won’t answer all of our questions, but our engagement of the questions will lead us to knowledge and insight. Here are some examples of the critical questions that will carry our inquiry:
  • How democratic is the United States?
  • What are the core American political values?
  • How do we reconcile liberty and security in this age of global terror?
  • Who does our political system represent?
After you’ve completed this course, you will be able to:
  • Carry on a cogent political conversation
  • Understand important contemporary political trends
  • Have a critical comprehension of the media
  • Know how to effectively interact with your government
  • Interpret political charts and data
  • Know your legal rights and responsibilities
  • Kick it on the AP exam

Free Inquiry
This classroom is a place for critical inquiry into vital questions about our political beliefs and values. I hope that this class stimulates your thinking, respects and affirms your beliefs, and is a safe place for you to share your ideas. It’s my goal to listen thoughtfully, ask incisive questions, and consider all sides of an issue. I hope you’ll join me on this journey.

3 ring binder, paper, pens, pencils, colored pencils, sharpies, viking helmet (optional), magic markers, highlighters + erasers.

We follow all UNCSA attendance policies in this class. If you have an anticipated absence, you are responsible for rescheduling make up work before you leave. If you have an unanticipated excused absence, you are responsible for rescheduling any make up work within 2 days of your return. If you fail to reschedule missed work within 2 days of your return, you will receive a zero for your missed work. If you miss any work because of an unexcused absence, you will receive a zero for your missed work. All of our class assignments are listed on our class website, and in case of extended absences (yours or mine), you will be expected to follow our progress on-line. UNCSA High School Student Code of Conduct

Assignment Types

Tests 65% of grade
Approximately every three weeks you will take a unit test that will consist of approximately 35 multiple-choice questions and one free response question (essay). Each term will culminate in a cumulative exam, consisting of at least one free response question, and approximately 60 multiple-choice questions. Our AP exam will be on Tuesday, May 15, 2012 at 8:00 am. There are no final exam exemptions.

Projects 15% of grade
Projects will be assigned well in advance of their due date, you will be allowed to select the students you work with, or you may choose to work alone. Teams will be responsible for dividing responsibilities, monitoring team progress, and turning in the final product by the deadline.

Individual Assignments 20% of grade

You will complete a number of individual assignments throughout the year. These assignments will include, but not be limited to, reading assignments, preparation for discussion, journal reviews, homework assignments, presentations, and projects. All work is to be completed individually unless stated otherwise. All student work must comply with the UNCSA plagiarism policy and must be completed on time with a fifteen-point penalty for each day the work is late. All class assignments are listed on our class website: http://politicsstudio.wikifoundry.com/

Journal Reviews
Every few weeks you will write a journal review connecting class topics to current events. There are a number of excellent free on-line resources for you to review.

As in any dance company, orchestra, acting ensemble, or visual arts group you will be evaluated not merely based on your intelligence, chops, and “talent”, but also on your ability to get along well with others, adapt to group norms, and generally “behave”. In this class, that means that you should ask questions in class, stay awake and alert, actively listen, be prepared every day (I will sometimes check to see if you’ve done your homework reading or writing, invest yourself in the well being of the others who share your work space, and generally aspire to make the class a better place. This is a small part of your grade, but if your grade is on the bubble, rounding up or not, based on your comportment can be the difference in a letter grade. Put away your phone, close your laptop & stay awake.

Progress Reports
You will receive a progress report at the midway point of each semester. I will answer any questions and explain your midterm report in an individual conference to be held prior to the midterm. I will update your grades throughout the term on our Blackboard site.

Grading Scale
Numerical grade Letter Grade
100-93 A
92-90 A-
89-87 B+
86-83 B
82-80 B-
79-77 C+
76-73 C
72-70 C-
69-67 D+
66-63 D
62-60 D-
59-0 F

Unit Goals

In AP US Government and Politics course we will attempt to understand the American political system by focusing on five main units of study: The Constitution, Political Culture, The Political Process, Political Institutions, and Civil Rights and Liberties.

Unit One The Constitution
Unit one will help students gain an understanding of the constitutional underpinnings of our political system. We will read excerpts from the Constitution, The Federalist Papers and John Locke. Students will examine the nature of democracy, our constitution and American federalism. We will use contemporary examples to make theories and principles of federal constitutional democracy relevant. Landmark and contemporary Supreme Court cases such as US v Lopez, and Gonzales v Raich will help us examine the power of federalism in the US today as we examine the basis of our political system.

Unit Two Political Culture
In this time of American polarization, students will explore the political beliefs and landscape of the United States. We will begin with an examination of our own political beliefs which will then broaden into an investigation of American political culture and ideology. As we explore the political spectrum we will hold a debate between competing ideologies and parties. The culmination of our study of political culture will be our reading of Robert Putnam’s, Bowling Alone. Students will examine social capital in our own community and in the United States and will present a presentation on American social capital and its consequences on the American political system.

Unit Three The Political Process
Unit three will help students understand the mechanics of the American political process through a rigorous examination of interest groups, political parties, the media, campaigns and elections. Students will complete a project on the American political process by creating a candidate, making campaign ads, attending debates and conventions, meeting lobbyists, reading public opinion polls, and finally running office in mock elections.

Unit Four Political Institutions
Students will explore the nuts and bolts of American politics in this unit on political institutions. We will study the detailed workings of the three branches and how they interact with each other. Simulations will reinforce our knowledge as we form committees, pass legislation, build administrations, and follow court cases to the Supreme Court. Students will end this unit by judging the relative strength of the three branches and following current power struggles between them.

Unit Five Civil Rights and Liberties
In this age of terror, students will examine the balance between liberty and security that has been an part of the American political debate since its foundation. In this essential unit, students will study the vital rights and liberties that are the basis of our liberal democracy. We will start with an in depth look at the First Amendment as we explore the historical basis and contemporary parameters of our freedom. We will then turn towards due process to better understand the foundation of our legal rights as citizens. Throughout this unit we will look at a number of landmark Supreme Court decisions that form the basis of our rights: Lemon v Kurtzman, Engle v Vitale, Mapp v Ohio, Miranda v Arizona, and others, as well as more contemporary due process issue such as extraordinary rendition, the use of torture, and the Supreme Court case, Hamdi v Rumsfeld. Throughout this unit students will be invited to draw conclusions about the limits of our rights in this post 9/11 world.

Unit Objectives

Unit One The Constitution
Students will be able to:
Analyze the benefits and costs of democracy
Describe the preconditions necessary for democracy to flourish
Evaluate the ways in which the United States is and isn’t democratic
Describe the history of the Constitutional Convention
Identify the conflicts and compromises in the writing of the US Constitution
List the key points of the Federalists and Anti-Federalists
Analyze the causes and effects of our system of checks and balances
Identify concept of judicial review
Explain the evolution of the Constitution through US history
Describe the amendment process of he US Constitution
Analyze the nature of American federalism
Compare the key components of federal, confederal, and unitary governments

Unit Two Political Culture
Students will be able to:
Identify the key components of American political culture
Analyze the sources of political socialization
Describe key components of different political ideologies
Demonstrate an understanding of the political spectrum
Analyze charts and graphs describing American demographics
Interpret US demographic data
Identify connections between demographics and ideology
Describe the roots and evolution of American political culture over time
Analyze the effect of US political culture on our political system.
Demonstrate their understanding of social capital in the context of our community
Determine the effect of social capital on our political systems

Unit Three The Political Process
Students will be able to:
Identify key interest groups in the US political system
Describe methods interest groups use to pursue their policy objectives
Identify the platforms of the major political parties
Identify and describe the tenants of third parties in the US political system
Analyze the causes and effects of our two party system
Compare the US two party system to other multiparty political systems
Describe the methods parties use to achieve their political objectives
Explain the power of the media in the electoral process
Explain the evolution of the media in contemporary US politics
Analyze the roles and powers of the different actors in the US political process
Weigh the costs and benefits of public opinion polling on our political process
Describe the effects of public opinion on campaigns, elections, parties, and political policy
Identify the methods used to gauge public opinion
Analyze the effects of money on our electoral system
Identify the key provisions of contemporary campaign finance reforms
Describe the steps of the electoral process
Detail present proposals for electoral reform
Analyze the evolution of our electoral process
Identify different types of campaign ads and their effectiveness on elections
Analyze the causes and effects of realigning elections

Unit Four Political Institutions
Students will be able to:
Identify the powers of the Congress
List the differences between the House and the Senate
Describe the way bills become laws and identify the many hurdles bills face
Explain the congressional electoral process
Analyze the costs and benefits, causes and effects of effects of high incumbent reelection rates
Identify the different leadership positions in Congress
Analyze the connection between representatives and constituents
Evaluate the weight of the different factors representatives consider when they vote
Identify the major powers of the president
Analyze the reasons for the evolution of presidential power over the 20th century
Describe the many different jobs of the president and evaluate their relative importance
Analyze the connection between representatives and constituents
Identify the duties and evaluate the relative power of different actors in the executive branch
Identify the members of the Supreme Court
Describe the different steps in a Supreme Court case
List the powers of the Supreme Court
Identify the key facts of landmark Supreme Court cases
Describe the evolution of judicial power over the past century
Identify the main tenants of the competing judicial philosophies and evaluate their merits
Analyze the causes of the growth of the modern bureaucracy
Evaluate the impact of an unelected bureaucracy on our democratic system
Identify the major agencies of the US government and their powers
Describe the methods of bureaucratic oversight of the bureaucracy
Evaluate the relative power of the three branches of government

Unit Five Civil Rights and Liberties
Students will be able to:
Identify the key components of the First Amendment
Analyze the causes and effects of selective incorporation
Identify key First Amendment rights Supreme Court cases
Describe some of the major protections guaranteed by the First Amendment
Describe the tension between security and liberty in contemporary politics and evaluate the merits of both sides of the argument
Describe the evolution of First Amendment protections over the past two centuries
Identify the key provisions and protections of the Fourth Amendment
Describe the evolution of the rights of the accused over the past half century
Identify the parameters of student rights in schools
Describe the key moments in the history of the struggle for civil rights in the US
Analyze the state of race relations in the US race in today
List and evaluate the success of different methods the US government has used to fight discrimination
Evaluate the impact of race on US politics
Are we living in a post-racial America?
Describe key components of US social, economic, and foreign policy
Identify the key policy making institutions and actors in US social, economic, and foreign policy

Hammurabi’s Code of Conduct
Observe the Golden Rule. In other words…

Come to class every day. If there is a reason you must be absent, please inform me prior to the absence, if possible. I shut the door when class starts. If you arrive after the door is shut, you are tardy. Please shut the door behind you. Three tardies equal one absence. Please reference the UNCSA attendance policy for further clarification of the attendance policy. Any work missed due to an unexcused absence will result in a grade of zero for that assignment.

Honor Code
I take intellectual property very seriously. Any instances of plagiarism, cheating, or unauthorized collaboration or copying of assignments will result in an automatic zero for the assignment with no possibility of make up. All violations of the honor code will be reported to the Assistant Dean. UNCSA High School Student Code of Conduct

You must turn in work when it is due. You will be assessed a late penalty of ten points per day late. You may not make-up work after it is five days over due. You may not make up any work that was due on the day of an unexcused absence.

Food and drink
Leave the room as neat and tidy as you found it. I allow you to eat and drink in class (within reason: no waffles please). If your class leaves food or drinks in the room this privilege will be suspended.

Cell phones
Cells phones and any personal communication devices should be turned off during class and stowed in a bag, backpack, or under your desk. Please do not answer phones, text, or allow your phones to ring or vibrate during class. Laptops are allowed but must be shut unless I say otherwise. The first time your cell phone goes off in class, I will answer it; there won’t be a second time.

You may NOT use computers in class without my permission.

Sleeping in class
You may not sleep in class without my permission. That won’t happen. Sleeping in class will affect your grade, leave you open to surprise attack, and leave silly red marks on your face.

There is a great deal of opportunity for discussion in this class.
Discussion (and life in general) works best if you observe the following rules.
Speak your mind (not just your heart).
Restate what the other person has just said before you respond to it.
Attack ideas, not people. Don’t kill the messenger.
Ask as many questions as you make statements.
It’s ok to disagree. You can still be friends.
Work towards understanding.
Do us all a favor and think about what you are going to say before you say it.
Follow this guide: Is what you are saying true? Is it important? Is it worth saying? Is it hurtful?
Don’t repeat things that have already been said. Don’t begin with, “Somebody already said this…”
Respond to the thread of the discussion, not what was said five minutes ago (let it go).
If you start a sentence with, “I’m not racist, but…” you shouldn’t say it.

I’m glad you are a part of our AP Government and Politics class. It’s going to be a great year.
Now please turn off all personal communications devices, sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.