14 January 2016

City College of San Francisco continues to be open, fully accredited, and excellent (as always); your credits are fully transferable and financial aid is available. For more information about the accreditation crisis, check Save CCSF and AFT 2121.

POLS  1:
American Govt/Politics

POLS 1 (Sec. 3) (31337) Lec-3, MWF 9:10 – 10 AM in ARTX 182
POLS 1 (Sec. 9) (31653) Lec-3, MWF 11:10 – 12 in Cloud 258

Dr. Dan Brook  (brook @ brook . com)
Office Hours: Mon & Wed 10:05 – 10:35 AM in Batmale 666 on class days
Mailbox: L155, Soc Sci Dept, CCSF, SF, CA 94112
Social Science Dept: L656, 415-239-3330,
CCSF, Spring 2016

Course Overview & Student Learning Objectives:
“An introduction to the institutions, operations, policies, and problems of American government today. Examination of such issues as U.S. Constitutional development; the impact of the President, the Congress, the bureaucracy, and the courts on daily life; civil rights and liberties; the press and the mass media; political parties, lobbies, and citizen action groups; voting and elections; the domestic and foreign policies of the federal government; the problems of state and local government; public administration of and the theories, values, and behavior underlying the American political system.”

Major Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs)

Upon completion of this course a student will be able to:

  1. Identify and evaluate political institutions and processes in the United States, with focus on the Congress, Presidency, and the Courts.
  2. Explain the development of the U.S. Constitution, with special attention to the principles of checks and balances.
  3. Analyze current political issues in the U.S., with special attention to California and issues of federalism.
  4. Compare and contrast civil rights and civil liberties of individuals as articulated in the U.S. Constitution and court decisions.
  5. Analyze the role of political culture, ideology, and diversity in shaping public opinion and public policy in the U.S., with special attention to California.
  6. Evaluate ways that individuals can effectively participate in politics at the national, state, county, and/or local levels.

It is through the study of American government and politics that students will gain a better understanding of key components of American government, politics, and society, including political parties and elections, foreign policies and wars, class, race, sex, and gender, dictatorship and democracy, political and social environments, culture and communication, production, consumption, and distribution, globalization and localism, centralization and decentralization, power and resistance, rights and responsibilities, in addition to philosophical and other political concerns. Todd Gitlin argues that we begin to learn exactly at that point where we enter “that difficult, rugged, sometimes impassable territory where arguments are made, points weighed, counters considered, contradictions faced, and where honest disputants have to consider the possibility of learning something that might change their minds”. Our classroom will be that territory.

Course Organization:
This course is designed to be more of a mosaic than a narrative. There are an infinite number of ways this (or any other) course could be designed, all of which would be subjective and incomplete. We will do our best, however, to learn a great deal about American government and politics and to make doing so interesting, useful, and fun. Therefore, at the end of the course, we may still not have “conclusions” or all of the “answers”, but we will certainly have a better understanding, and perhaps better questions, regarding American government and politics. In my opinion, as with any organization, school should be a “collaboratory”, and education should be a conspiracy, where people actively and cooperatively communicate and work together. We will strive to do so.

Course Objectives:
*    To become proficient with the field of Political Science and the sub-field of American Government/Politics;
*    To become proficient with some of the major facts, concepts, theories, and insights of American Government/Politics;
*    To better understand the U.S. political system and your role in it;
*    To improve your skills in critical thinking, oral presentation, and writing;
*    To develop, enhance, and apply your political knowledge!

Required Texts (new and used, in the bookstore, at retailers and renters online, on reserve for free in Rosenberg Library, and elsewhere):
1) Gary Wasserman, Basics of American Politics (13th/2008, 14th/2011, or 15th/2015)
2) Michael Parenti, Democracy for the Few (8th/2008 or 9th/2010)
3) Online Reading (both listed below and to be assigned)
4) Current Events (some news of which you should be familiar with)

Required Course Listserv:
Parallel to our actual class sessions, we will also have a “virtual classroom” consisting of online messages via our course e-mail listserv. It is required that you subscribe to the free listserv for our class. You can do so by e-mailing and then replying to the confirmation message (if you haven’t already done so, you need to register for a free Yahoo account, though you do not need to have or use a Yahoo e-mail address). Messages sent to will be received by everyone who subscribes.

You will be responsible for information posted on this required listserv, where the exam guidelines and questions will be posted. It is further required that you post at least one substantive message to the list before the midterm exam.

If you have any trouble subscribing or with the listserv otherwise, check that you’re spelling the address exactly correct, that your spam or junk folder isn’t catching the confirmation message, and then, if necessary, contact someone at a computer center.

Willingness to think critically and willingness to participate in class!

The requirements for this course include the assigned readings, successfully taking the midterm and final essay exams, completing the short essays and exercises, doing a course project (any one of three options), regular attendance and class participation, actively using an e-mail account, and subscribing to the course listserv. Late assignments will be penalized one whole grade per week unless prior approval is given, though better late than never. Minimum page and other requirements for assignments are strictly enforced. Any assignment missed, for any reason, is the responsibility of the student and must be completed. Satisfactory completion of all major requirements is necessary for a passing grade in this course.

Academic Integrity:
Academic honesty (i.e., doing your own work and presenting your own ideas while crediting others for theirs) is critically important and will be strictly enforced; academic dishonesty (e.g., plagiarism, other forms of cheating, etc.) is totally unacceptable. Please read and review Earl Babbie, “How to Avoid Plagiarism” at

There should not be any plagiarism on any assignments, whether small or large, draft or final. As a first step, when plagiarism is suspected or detected, I will stop reading the assignment and assign no credit; further steps will be taken afterwards. If you are ever unsure what plagiarism is or isn’t, it is your responsibility to investigate.

There will be both midterm and final essay exams. Study questions will be provided at least a week in advance, based on both assigned readings and classroom lectures, and the exam questions will come directly from the pool of study questions provided in advance.
Each exam will be worth approximately 1/4 (25%) of the course grade.

Reflection Papers:
I will periodically assign in-class or short take-home assignments focusing on various political topics and all films we watch in class. All reflection papers must be typed, be at least 350 words, and have a word count at the top of them. These assignments will be graded on a credit / no credit basis (e.g., check plus, check, check minus, no credit). Missed assignments should be made up as best and as soon as possible, as all are required.
These writings will be worth approximately 1/8 (12.5%) of the course grade.

Course Project & Proposal:
There are options for your course project. Any project chosen must be preceded by a brief (and approved) project proposal, clearly and concisely explaining (1) what you plan to do in terms of option and subject matter, (2) how it relates to American government/politics, and (3) why you are choosing to do that particular project. If you need to substantially change your project, you must submit a new project proposal.

If you engage in a group project, each student’s contribution should exceed the minimum requirements for a single project and each student should delineate their specific contributions to the group project.
Project proposals (typed) are due during the fifth week of the course (see course schedule below). The course project is worth approximately 1/4 (25%) of the course grade.

    Option 1: Community Service Learning Project
Community Service Learning. This is the preferred option for this course. Students may engage in a minimum of two hours per week this semester for a minimum of ten weeks toward a community service learning project (also known as experiential learning or community-based learning) related to American government/politics of the student’s choosing (10 weeks x 2 hours/week = 20 hours/semester).
You can join or start a group, do individual work, and/or work with others in or out of the class, engaging in political service, political advocacy, and/or political action, doing one or more activities with one of more groups of your choosing throughout this semester.
Students will maintain and submit a typed journal of their experiences, very briefly listing date, time, location, and activity, as well as discussing the political significance and your personal reflections about your political experiences. There should also be a final cumulative reflection on your project, summarizing your experience, for a total of 11 journal entries/reflections. These projects should rarely, if ever, conflict with class time. Each week’s entry should be a minimum of 350 words typed with a word count on top (like the reflection papers).

For lots of ideas, check with its list of about 1200 (mostly) local organizations; also check,,, and
Journals are due Week 16. You first need to submit a brief typed proposal and get it approved (see above).

    Option 2: Academic Research Paper
Research. An original academic research paper on a relevant topic of your choosing (within certain constraints and after consultation with the instructor) may constitute the final project. This will give students the opportunity to explore in depth a facet of the subject matter that fits with their personal interests. Be sure to explain, not just assert, how the chosen topic illustrates something about American politics. Research papers are due earliest of the projects during Wk 14.

The text of the paper must be a minimum of 3000 words (not including cover page, abstract, references, and annotations) (with a word count on the cover page, typewritten, numbered, double-spaced, 1-inch margins, Times New Roman 12-point font or equivalent, and, preferably, double-sided pages), utilizing a minimum of ten outside sources (at least 5 books and at least 5 articles), in addition to citing at least one required reading from this course for a minimum total of 11 sources. Each of the 11 minimum sources must be annotated with a brief single-spaced summary of that source; additional sources can be annotated, but they do not have to be. There should also be an abstract, or one-paragraph author’s summary, of the paper at the beginning of the paper. Those are acceptable minimums, however more might be useful, while less will be penalized. Do not number any pages, such as a cover page, that precede the paper (the first page of your paper is page 1).

Whatever information you put on your cover page should not be repeated on page 1. Your paper should start at the very top of page 1. Although graphs, photos, etc. might be worthwhile, they are not text and therefore do not count toward the minimum length requirement.
All facts and ideas not your own (e.g. concepts, quotes, paraphrases, statistics, stories) must be properly cited with any academically-recognized citation method. The paper should be given a good title and wrapped with a cover page at the beginning and the annotated bibliography at the end.

The paper can employ any social science methodology, any ideology, and any perspective. These are research papers and should not simply be book reports, literature reviews, personal reflections, or the like. Feel free to take a strong position. What is important, however, is how clearly you present the information, how you support and defend your argument(s), and how you incorporate your own analysis.
It is highly recommended that you start the paper relatively early: begin by thinking about and then choosing a topic, doing preliminary research, formulating some ideas, and making some notes. Remember, good writing (and a good grade!) often requires cycles of thinking, researching, outlining, writing, editing, and proofreading.

Your paper should have a thesis statement (or main argument) on the first page; you should also state here what your paper will cover. Correspondingly, your paper should end with a conclusion, one that ties the paper together and wraps up your main idea(s), bringing closure. Between the introduction and conclusion should be the story, e.g. support and defense of your arguments, evidence, examples, anecdotes, history, comparisons and contrasts, etc. Personal commentary and autobiography are only appropriate when accompanied by critical analysis and/or thoughtful synthesis, which can include linking it to the literature on your topic and/or placing it in a comparative or historical context.
Besides the substance of the paper, organization, grammar/spelling, and clarity are also important. Difficulties with writing can be brought to the writing center on campus and/or to others who can help you clarify your ideas and how you convey them. Some widely used and recommended books for help with writing are: Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style <>; Howard S. Becker’s Writing for Social Scientists; and various manuals of style. There are many other good sources for writing, both in the library and on the Web. Due during the third to last week of class (see course schedule below).

Research papers are due Week 14. You first need to submit a typed proposal and get it approved (see above).

On your cover page, along with a word count, please prominently place and sign the following certification statement:

“I certify that this paper complies with academic integrity standards, does not contain plagiarized content, and exceeds the minimum length requirement.”

    Option 3: Infinity Option
Infinity. Students who would like to pursue other equivalent non-paper alternative projects should think of one and then can speak with me about this possibility. Option 3 projects should, at a minimum, be at least equivalent to Option 1 (20+ hours of community involvement and journal) or Option 2 (3000-word research paper with abstract and at least 11 annotated references) in terms of your time and effort put into the project. These projects are not a way to get out of doing work, but rather are an alternative way to get in. Alternative projects are due Week 15. You first need to submit a typed proposal and get it approved (see above).

Classroom Protocol (Attendance, Class Participation, & Classroom Behavior):
Education should be a “contact” activity, for participant-observers, not one simply for spectators or audience members. This is a lecture and (especially) discussion class in which the dialogues and exchanges between instructor and students, and among the students themselves, are essential for the full functioning of the “mini-society” of the classroom. Spirited, but friendly, debate, as well as active listening, is absolutely essential for critical analysis, intellectual development, mutual respect, human creativity, political pluralism, and civic participation in a democratic society. There will be an emphasis in this class on discussion and interactivity.

The purpose of discussion in our course is to provide a forum in which students can safely and supportively ask questions, present and debate their ideas, receive and interpret new information and perspectives, and develop and clarify their thinking. Students are expected to prepare for, attend, and participate in discussions as actively as possible. Therefore, attendance, promptness, attentiveness, and positive participation with relevant comments and questions are vitally important. Students are also strongly encouraged to share items/stories/miscellanea relevant to the class as another form of participation.

I expect students to be on time to class and to silence their electronics (e.g., phones, iPods, etc.) while in the classroom, as well as being otherwise respectful of fellow students and the learning environment. Coming to class late, leaving early, texting, constantly checking cell phones, using a computer, tablet, or phone for non-class activities, and other distracting and disruptive activities are forms of negative participation.

You may only use an electronic device (e.g., laptop, iPad, cell phone) in class for class-related purposes (e.g., to take notes, to quickly research something). Other uses are disrespectful and are a negative form of class participation.

Participation is worth approximately 1/8 (12.5%) of the course grade.

Grading Criteria:
Assignments are graded holistically based on the following qualitative rubric:

“A” level work consists of cogent, well-articulated, and well-developed written and oral presentation, demonstrating insight, originality, and complexity in both form (e.g., language, expression, organization) and substance (e.g., logical argumentation, factual accuracy, and appropriate examples); critical thinking skills are amply demonstrated; tasks are completed on time and according to the guidelines, often going “above and beyond”. “A” level work is considered excellent.
“B” level work may be thoughtful and developed, but may not be original, particularly insightful, or precise. While ideas might be clear, focused, and organized, they are less likely to be comprehensive or dialectical. Critical thinking skills are satisfactory; “B” level work is considered good.
“C” level work is reasonably competent, yet may be unclear, inconsistent, and minimally inadequate in form and/or content. Critical thinking skills are minimal; “C” level work is considered acceptable and mediocre.
“D” level work is not competent, appropriate, relevant, complete, and/or adequate in form and/or content, often lacking familiarity with course readings, lectures, or basic concepts. Critical thinking skills are largely absent. “D” level work is barely passing.
“F” level work is generally not enough work, often missing assignments or substantial parts thereof, doing work below the stated minimum requirements, not demonstrating any critical thinking skills, not being familiar with course lectures, readings, or basic concepts, academically dishonest, or is otherwise unacceptable for credit. “F” level work is failing.

As per privacy regulations, I will not share any grades via email.

E-mail/Internet Account:
Students are required to access and use an e-mail/internet account. It is an invaluable tool for research, news, information, and entertainment from around the world, in addition to facilitating communication, including getting in touch with me (my e-mail address is brook @ brook . com (when writing to me by e-mail, please put something identifying in the subject line, as I teach a lot of courses and have many students). As noted above, students are also required to subscribe to our course listserv and are strongly encouraged to post to it as a form of class participation.

All written work for the course (required), as well as any other files that are important to you (recommended), should be saved or backed up in more than one way (e.g., on a flash drive or other external hard drive, on a web-based e-mail account or otherwise online, with, or, if necessary, burned to a CD or printed out as a hard copy). If you do this and something unexpected happens before an assignment is due, you will still have a copy of your work and I will expect to see it.

Accommodation, Inclusion, Civil Rights, and Cooperation:
Respect for diversity, both of people and perspectives, is expected and encouraged in this class. All students are welcome, should feel safe, and should have equal access and opportunity for optimal learning in this course, department, college, and society, regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, home language, sex, gender, sexual orientation, sexuality, gender identity, religion, creed, ideology, ability or disability, appearance, socio-economic class, marital, parental, or pregnancy status, housing status, veteran status, political or other affiliation, or any other similar or functionally equivalent quality, identity, or status.

Any student who has any sort of disability, special need, condition, situation, difficulty, or circumstance, whether permanent or temporary, that requires assistance or “reasonable accommodations” should contact the campus DSPS at 452-5481 ( and/or speak with me directly.

Other student services at CCSF can be found at

Students are encouraged to use the methods of “legitimate cheating”, which include, but are not limited to: studying, working, playing, and plotting together; consulting with the writing center and librarians; getting a tutor; searching the web (especially the many social science, political, and writing sites); as well as brainstorming and discussing issues and ideas with students, friends, family, teachers, workers, coaches, managers, leaders, organizers, activists, and others, both on and off campus.

Also, I’m available in my office and via e-mail, as well as before, during, and after class.

SF Resources:
Dial 311 (within SF only) or 415-701-2311 (24/7/365), check, or get the app.

National Resources:
The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is available anytime, 24/7/365, toll-free at 1-800-SUICIDE (my article on suicide is at – please share!). The National Domestic Violence Hotline is available anytime, 24/7/365, toll-free at 1-800-799-7233. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) (1-800-662-HELP) offers referrals 24/7/365.

For the flu, check out for “know[ing] what to do about the flu”: get vaccinated; cover coughs and sneezes; wash hands frequently; avoid people who are ill; and stay home if sick.

News & Views Resources on the Web:
Excellent web sites for news and views related to this course include the automated  for numerous news links and the non-profit and non-profit for mostly progressive ones, along with many links; non-profit is also quite useful and interesting. I also recommend the New York Times at

Local online media include the San Francisco Chronicle at and the SF Bay Guardian at On the radio, you can listen in to KPFA (94.1 FM), KQED (88.5 FM), and KALW (91.7 FM). There are many other sources on (and off) the internet that would be interesting, useful, and relevant, as well.

*** If you have ANY concerns, questions, problems, or issues regarding ANY aspect of the course (or anything else) that isn’t addressed in this syllabus or during class, or isn’t clear enough to you, please make sure to speak to me either in or out of class. ***

Course Schedule & Class Assignments:
Readings should be done by the week for which they are assigned. Be sure that your chapter readings are aligned with the subject matter for the week. All items not marked optional are required.

Wk1: Jan. 20-22, 2016
Course Introduction & Syllabus
MLK, “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”:
Earl Babbie, “How to Avoid Plagiarism”:

Wk2: Jan. 25-27-29
Gary Wasserman, Basics of American Politics, ch.1;
Michael Parenti, Democracy for the Few (9th ed.), ch. 1

MLK Reflection Paper due any day this week based on MLK’s Letter above (350-word minimum typed with word count on top)

Wk3: Feb. 1-3-5
Wasserman, ch.2 & Appendix (U.S. Constitution);
Parenti, ch. 2

Plagiarism Reflection Paper due any day this week based on the Babbie article above (350-word minimum typed with word count on top)

Wk4: Feb. 8-10 (Fri, 2/12 is Lincoln’s Birthday – College Closed)
Wasserman, ch.4;
Parenti, ch. 15

Wk5: Feb. 17-19 (Mon, 2/15 is Washington’s Birthday – College Closed)
Wasserman, ch.3;
Parenti, ch. 16;
optional: Parenti, ch. 17

Project Proposals due any day Week 5 or earlier (Typed)

(Specify which option and topic you plan to pursue, how it relates to American Government/Politics, and why you want to pursue that path)

Wk6: Feb. 22-24-26
Wasserman, ch.5;
Parenti, ch. 18

Wk7: Feb. 29-Mar. 2-4
Civil Rights & Civil Liberties:
Wasserman, ch.6;
Parenti, “Free Speech—At a Price”,
Film: When Hate Happens Here (reflection paper due next week)
Meet in Rosenberg Library 3rd floor on Wednesday & Friday

Wk8: Mar. 7-9-11
Mass Media:
Wasserman, ch.8;
Parenti, ch. 13;
Noam Chomsky, “What Makes Mainstream Media Mainstream”,–.htm

WHHH Reflection Paper due any day this week (350-word minimum with word count on top)

Wk9: Mar. 14-16-18
Elections, Voters, & Political Parties:
Wasserman, ch.7;
Parenti, ch. 14

Midterm Exam Review

Wk10: Mar. 21-23-25
Midterm Exam on both Mon, 3/21 (Part 1) & Wed, 3/23 (Part 2)
Film on Fri, 3/25 – meet on Rosenberg 3rd floor

Spring Break

Wk11: Apr. 4-6-8
Who Governs? Perspectives on Power:
Wasserman, ch.9;
Parenti, chs. 6 & 12

Cesar Chavez Reflection Paper due any day this week (350-word minimum with word count on top)

Wk12: Apr 11-13-15
Wealth & Poverty:
Parenti, ch. 4;
Read 3 Homelessness Factsheets:
Film: Streets of Paradise (reflection paper due next week) – on Friday, meet on Rosenberg 3rd floor

Wk13: Apr. 18-20-22
Wealth & Poverty (continued):
Parenti, ch. 3

Streets of Paradise Reflection Paper due any day this week (350-word minimum typed with word count on top)

Wk14: Apr. 25-27-29
Wealth & Poverty (continued):
Parenti, ch. 5

If you chose Option 2 for the Course Project, Research Papers are due any day during Wk 14.

Wk15: May 2-4-6
Health & Ecology:
Parenti, ch. 8
Film: Forks Over Knives (film reflection paper due next week) – Wednesday & Friday meet on Rosenberg 3rd floor

If you chose Option 3 for the Course Project, your Alternative Projects are due during Wk 15.

Wk16: May 9-11-13
Military & Empire:
Parenti, chs. 10-11;
Chomsky, “Noam Chomsky on War and Peace”,
William Blum, “A Brief History of U.S. Interventions”

Forks Over Knives Film Reflection Paper due any day this week (350-word minimum typed with word count on top)

If you chose Option 1 for the Course Project, Reflection Journals on your Community Service Learning are due any day during Wk 16.

Wk 17: May 16-18 (5/18 is the last day of class)
Democracies in America:
Parenti, ch. 19;
Chomsky, “Radical Democracy”,
Course Conclusion
Final Exam Review

Final Exam (note your section):
Sec. 3: (31337): Fri, May 20 at 8:30 AM in ARTX 182
Sec. 9: (31653): Mon, May 23 at 10:30 AM in Cloud 258

Copyright © DB 2016. Although any commercial use of this syllabus and/or the course, including their contents, whether oral, written, graphic, mechanical, electronic, or otherwise, is strictly prohibited, any non-profit research, educational, or activist “fair use” of the syllabus and/or the course material is strongly encouraged (17 USC §107). This syllabus is subject to change. All rights reserved.


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