PLS 135 American National Government
Northern Virginia Community College
Ms. Simmons Spring 2007
To identify and understand the foundations of American
To understand and practice of the art of politics-- To understand
who gets what and how
To identify and understand the institutions of government
To appreciate the dance of public policy-- To understand how to
create innovative solutions to problems in a democracy
To understand the “limits and possibilities of American
democracy” (Barbour & Wright, p. xi)
To understand how to gain, use and limit power
To create and participate in the Scholarship of Engagement
To increase civic engagement by building skills necessary for
citizens and other residents
Course content See College Catalog.
Text required Ginsberg, Benjamin, Theodore J. Lowi, and Margaret Weir. We the
People: An Introduction to American Politics. New York: W.W.
Norton. 5th ed. 2005.
Skills needed Students need “the same skills that make good citizens: the ability to
think critically about and process new information and the ability to be
actively engaged in one’s subject” (Barbour & Wright, Keeping the
Republic, p. xii). These also include skills of clear writing, oral
communication and collaboration.
Student Responsibilities Learn. Be engaged, curious, funny, persistent, challenging, prepared,
and participatory. Attend class. Read on schedule: assignments are
to be read by the date of the class meeting listed on the schedule. Meet
the requirements of the syllabus and handouts. Apply college level
reading, writing and oral communicational skills. Stay in touch with
the instructor. Notify the instructor regarding ADA: Americans with
Disabilities Act requires that any student who needs an accommodation
for a disability must contact the Counseling Office. Get to know other
Instructor Responsibilities Learn. Be knowledgeable, clear, engaged, curious, funny, persistent,
challenging, prepared, participatory, encouraging, and available.
Contact information Office hours: MW 11:00-12:00 and 1:00-3:00
Office: Colgan 231
Phone: 703 257 6688
Note: The instructor responds to e-mails during her office
Web page: http/: www.nvcc.edu/home/nvsimml
Grading Scale A B C D F W*
100-90 89-80 79-70 69-60 59-0
*Students must withdraw themselves.
Grading Criteria See separate handout.
Steps to Success (10%) See separate handout.
Learning the text (30%) Click, click, click: Learning the text requires students to complete on-
line assignments for chapters 2-18. For each chapter, the publisher’s
website includes three assignments: a diagnostic quiz, a “you decide”
exercise and a chapter simulation. Students must select one assignment
for each chapter. Students may complete a diagnostic quiz for one chapter
and a “you decide” exercise for another. Regardless of which assignment
the student selects, the student must e-mail the assignment to the instructor
prior to class on the day that chapter is due to be discussed. Use ONLY
NVCC student e-mail addresses. The assignments for each chapter are
posted at www.wwnorton.com/wtp5e; the due dates are listed in the class
Talking about the text and
other PLS sources
(30%) Talk, talk, talk: Students must discuss assigned reading, using political
science terms and ideas presented in the text. They must connect assigned
reading to current issues and identify the sources read, heard or viewed.
Students who complete a “you decide” exercise and a chapter simulation
are expected to make informal presentations at the instructor’s call during
Beyond the text:
The Scholarship of Engagement
Students must complete A and B. All require collaboration of 4-5
students. Collaborators may change from one assignment to the other.
Written components differ but all require presentations.
For each assignment, the proposal/presentation voted best earns the team
an additional 10 points. All must meet the criteria for grading and rules
for collaboration. (See handouts.) Schedule contains due dates.
A. Civic Engagement on Campus (20%). Civic Engagement in PLS
135 seeks to involve students in creating an atmosphere of Civic
Engagement on the Manassas Campus. Students must complete
one of the following: an idea for a civic engagement effort that the
team creates, subject to the instructor’s approval prior to their
beginning it, or work to revitalization of one of the political clubs
on campus: The Democratic Club, the Republican Club or
The team will document its work via one team Portfolio. The
Portfolio will contain 5 sections: (1) a clear statement of its idea or
the identification of the political club it will work to revive. All
team members must sign this; (2) an annotated bibliography of
research sources that will be helpful (3) a plan, complete with steps
and due dates, to make the idea a reality, (4) a list of which student
is responsible for implementing specific steps of the plan, and (5)
an assessment, in the form of a documented analytical essay of the
The oral presentation is limited to 15 minutes per team. A
period of questions follows.
B. Civic Engagement off Campus: a Case Study by
Video/CD/PowerPoint (20%): The team will create a video/ cd/
PowerPoint focusing on an individual who represents civic
engagement by her/his efforts to affect the policies of the national
government of the United States. The individual must not be an
elected official and must be currently affecting the policies of the
United States or have done so within the last decade. The team must
focus its work on the ideas and actions of the person, not on the
The team will create one Portfolio that documents its work.
work. The Portfolio will contain 5 sections: (1) identification of
the person and a clear statement explaining the team’s rationale in
selecting the person; (2) an annotated bibliography of research
sources that will be helpful; (3) a list of specific tasks each student
must complete; (4) a draft of the text that will accompany the
video, complete with proper documentation; and (5) the final
documented version of the text that will accompany the video.
The team’s video/cd/Powerpoint will be submitted for all
other students to view outside of the class hour in order for all
student teams to have sufficient time to assess it. All the other
teams assess the other team’s efforts during the exam period. The
assessment must include a determination of accuracy of
Emergency Procedures Follow the procedures outlined in class and on the charts in the
Note: Read the chapters prior to class and complete the “Learning the Text” assignments prior to
class on the day the chapter is assigned. Other assignments are due at the start of class in
the classroom. Assignments are not accepted late.
Jan 15 Introduction
Part I: Foundations Jan. 22 Read Preface (pp. xxix-xxiii) and Chap. 1 in text.
Jan. 29 Read Chaps. 2 and 3 in text.
Begin Civic Engagement on Campus: Set up teams.
Feb. 5 Read Chaps. 4 and 5 in text.
Submit 1st Portfolio segment: clear statement of team’s
idea for civic engagement or the campus organization it has
opted to revive, signed by all team members.
Instructor will e-mail teams as to the acceptability of original
Part II: Politics
Feb. 12 Read Chaps. 6 and 7 in text.
Submit 2nd Portfolio segment: annotated bibliography of
sources that will be helpful for the team’s civic engagement.
Add this to the 1st segment in the Portfolio.
Note: The NVCC library website links to web pages that
teach how to create annotated bibliographies.
Feb. 19 Holiday
Feb. 26 Read Chaps. 8 and 9 in text.
Submit 3rd and 4th Portfolio segment: the team’s plan,
complete with steps and due dates and list of which student is
responsible for implementing which steps of the plan.
Add them to the other segments in the Portfolio.
Mar. 5 Read Chaps. 10 and 11 in text.
Begin implementing the Civic Engagement plan.
Mar. 12 Spring Break
Mar. 19 Confer with instructor regarding the Civic Engagement
Continue implementing the Civic Engagement plan.
Part III: Institutions Mar. 26 Read Chaps. 12 and 13 in text
Continue implementing the Civic Engagement plan.
Submit 5th Portfolio assignment: assessment, in the form of
a documented analytical essay, of the team’s effort. Add this
to the other Portfolio assignments.
Apr 2 Oral Presentations about Civic Engagement on Campus
Apr. 9 Read Chaps. 14, 15 in text.
Submit 1st assignment for the Portfolio for Civic Engagement
off Campus. Instructor will e-mail teams as to whether the
persons selected and the rationales are rationale are an
Part IV: Policy chapters 16-18)
Apr. 16 Read Chap. 16 in text.
Submit 2nd and 3rd assignments for the Portfolio for Civic
Engagement off Campus. Add them to the Portfolio
Apr. 23 Read Chap. 17 in text.
Continue work on Civic Engagement off Campus.
Apr. 30 Read Chap. 18 in text.
Submit 4th Portfolio assignment. Add to others in Portfolio
May 7 Submit 5th Portfolio assignment to complete the Portfolio.
Submit the video/cd/Powerpoint.
Schedule time to watch other team’s productions.
May 14 3:30-6:15 EXAM: Video Assessments