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Bryan · Social Sciences · Government - GOVT

American Government

  • Fall 2021
  • Section B44 CRN-19026
  • 3 Credits
  • 10/25/2021 to 12/16/2021
  • Modified 10/26/2021

Meeting Times

Tuesday and Thursday, 12:00 PM to 1:15 PM, Classroom A108.

The syllabus may be updated to reflect changes/modifications when a need arises. Additionally, factors outside the direct control of Blinn College and the instructor may necessitate schedule adjustments as required to meet course objectives. Students will be informed of such changes if they occur.

Additional online materials to be accessed and undertaken by each student throughout the week.

Contact Information

Instructor: Dr. James Ruhland

Email: [email protected]

Phone: 979-209-8638

Office: B-104

Office Hours: By appointment, Zoom or in person. The instructor will, to the fullest extent possible, arrange to meet with students at a time that fits their schedule. For Zoom my office hours link is

Matters can often be handled in the classroom immediately before or after class time and, if necessary, instructor and student can move to a more secure location. Additionally, the instructor is available most times of the day for one-on-one discussion on the phone, over the internet, or by email correspondence.

Students are encouraged to contact the instructor whenever they have a question or problem. The instructor will strive to answer emails within 24 hours (weekdays) or 48 hours (weekends/holidays).


Government 2305 is a study of the organization, functions, and administration of the several branches and agencies of the national government, including a study of the federal constitution. The primary factors considered relate to the three branches of government -- judicial, executive, legislative -- major historical documents, the events that shaped the nation, and current events. Emphasis will be placed on the interaction of these subsystems. 48 contact hours. Credit: Three semester hours.


Student must be college reading ready according to Texas Success Initiatives Standards (TSI). Please see the Catalog section under Texas Success Initiative.

Core Curriculum Statement

Through the Texas Core Curriculum, students will gain a foundation of knowledge in human cultures and the physical and natural world, develop principles of personal and social responsibility for living in a diverse world, and advance intellectual and practical skills that are essential for all learning. For details relating to this core course, please see:


Explain the origin and development of constitutional democracy in the United States.

Demonstrate knowledge of the federal system.

Describe separation of powers and checks and balances in both theory and practice.

Demonstrate knowledge of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of the federal government.

Evaluate the role of public opinion, interest groups, and political parties in the political system.

Analyze the election process.

Describe the rights and responsibilities of citizens.

Analyze issues and policies in U.S. politics.




  • EDITION:  13E
  • ISBN: 978-0-393-53902-8

First Day Inclusive Access (No Need to Buy)
Students can access the book in eCampus by clicking “Resources” and “FD Materials” in the drop-down menu.


Print upgrade ISBN 978-0-393-87633-8

Course Requirements

All course assignments (quizzes, writing assignment, final exam) are to be submitted online. Class lecture will not necessarily cover all the material needed to succeed in this course. It is important in a blended course to review and understand the content included online and read your textbook. If students have any questions about either lecture materials, the textbook, or online content they are encouraged to ask questions. If you do this you should excel in this course.

Weekly Quizzes: There will be seven weekly quizzes (no quiz the final week of class). These are open book and open note quizzes that last 30 minutes and must be finished by the end of the week that they are available (first Sunday after that week of class). If you do not submit within the allotted 30 minutes (the quiz does not submit automatically), a zero will be issued as a grade for that particular quiz. You may not begin a quiz and then return to it later. The quizzes are designed to give you plenty of time to answer the questions if you have studied. If you have started a quiz ‘cold’ and have not studied for it, you will find that the quizzes will be difficult. Many of the questions test critical thinking skills and may not have a precise answer you can locate in the text. Therefore learn the material and you’ll have an easier time with the quizzes and exams.  The time allotted does not give you much leeway in looking up EVERY question. Additionally, always make certain you save your answers to the quiz when completing it so nothing is lost. This is your responsibility! Quizzes are to be completed by you and you alone – any indication that you have cheated with result in a failing grade for the class. Quizzes are due at specific times and dates – check the syllabus and course calendar. NO late submissions will be allowed. On rare occasions make-up quizzes will be allowed for excused absences at the instructor's sole discretion. The quizzes are designed to be taken wherever you might be under any circumstance so I emphasize that make-up quiz opportunities will be rare. There may be additional quizzes throughout the course, in class or online. These extra quizzes will be an opportunity to earn extra credit.

Attendance/Participation: Attendance and active participation in this course is vital. The instructor may excuse absences with a valid reason. Sleeping in is not a valid reason. Active engagement and participation in class discussion is vital to a successful and enjoyable class. Asking questions during class does count as participation, as other students may have the same question and it gives everyone an opportunity to explore the course material in greater depth.

Writing Assignment: A short written paper to be submitted online.

Students are to complete a written assignment analyzing a 2020 Presidential Candidate. Students are encouraged to pick a candidate other than Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Mike Pence, or Donald Trump. Third-party presidential candidates and major candidates in the primaries who did not become a nominee are appropriate choices. Extra credit will be given for selecting such a candidate and identifying a distinctive policy supported by that candidate setting them apart from the rest of the field within their party (or, for third party candidates, distinguishing them from the major parties).

The student will analyze the following points:

A. Name one specific policy supported by the candidate for the 2020 Presidential election.

B. Name one specific policy supported by the candidate’s party?

C. How do interest groups and public opinion affect this policy?

D. What particular groups and individuals may support or oppose this policy

This paper should be 3-5 pages in length using standard font sizes and margins (see below). No cover page should be included. It should be submitted in MS Word format. Alternative formats are not allowed. Paper format is 12 point font, double spaced with 1 inch margins. This paper is a written assignment, not bullet point response. Writing style matters. Students are encouraged to use campus resources to help them with writing. You are expected to proofread your paper and pay attention to style, grammar and spelling. Papers with significant readability problems or that are not written as a paper will lose points. More details and the grading rubric will be discussed in class well in advance of the paper.

The paper should use at least three academic sources (the textbook counts as one) and additional acceptable sources. These can include candidate web-pages, policy papers, and reputable news articles but not editorials, opinion pieces, punditry, including similar pieces masquerading as "news analysis," advocacy group materials. Wikipedia and like sites do not count as an acceptable source.

Reminder that this is a political science paper, not an opinion piece, punditry, or exercise in creative editorializing. Points will be lost for disparaging the candidate, their opponents, or their constituent groups. Including snide and sarcastic phrasing. Your writing style for this paper should reflect the tone of dispassionate analysis. It is however acceptable in your conclusion to make a normative evaluation of the policy's costs, benefits, and whether this would overall help the country, work as intended, and the like. This should be phrased in an analytical tone - you aren't writing a press release/issue advocacy paper.

The paper will be discussed further during class with sufficient time for you to work on it before it is due. Successful students will not wait to the last weekend before the paper is due to get started. They will start making their choice of topic, gathering sources, and writing a draft well in advance. Students are encouraged to come to the instructor with questions and use campus writing/learning resources in undertaking this assignment. The instructor will be happy to look over a draft of the student's paper no later than 1 week before it is due, and answer student questions about the paper at any time before it is due.

Comprehensive Final Exam: A two hour final exam covering all the material covered in the course will open during the last week of class. Students are expected to have completed it by the final day of class. It will be taken online, using honorlock. Students who do well on the quizzes should expect to do well on the exam so long as they review the material carefully in advance. The exam will be open book and open note, but no talking, no reading the questions aloud or the like will be permitted. Further information about the exam will be covered at the appropriate time in class. Once again students are encouraged to ask the instructor questions about the exam ahead of time.


Attendance/Participation: 10% - missing attendance might also mean missing extra credit opportunities. Note that while this does not seem like a lot, 10% is a full grade. Further, attendance along with participation is required and students who fail to attend regularly are subject to being dropped in accordance with Blinn policy.

Weekly Quizzes - 35%

Writing Assignment - 25%

Comprehensive Final Exam - 30%

Extra Credit - Extra bonus credit but do not rely on it to succeed.

Rounding Policy - the instructor rounds fractional percentages in the student's favor.

Grading Scale:

100-90% - A
80 - 89% - B
70 - 79% - C
60 - 69% - D
59% and below - F

Blinn College Policies

All policies, guidelines, and procedures in the Blinn College CatalogBlinn College Board Policies, and the Blinn College Administrative Regulations are applicable to this course.

Specific information on civility, attendance, add/drop, scholastic integrity, students with disabilities, final grade appeal, alternative retailers, campus carry and proctoring arrangements and cost.

Notice of any action taken under these protocol and procedures, by Blinn College or its employees, may be delivered by hand, through the U.S. Postal Service, or electronically to the student’s Blinn Buc e-mail account. Notice shall be deemed received upon actual receipt, on deposit in the U.S. Mail, or upon entering the information processing system used by Blinn College for Blinn Buc e-mail accounts, whichever first occurs.

Information about the changes Blinn has made to the Fall semester: Back with Blinn.

Course Policies

Please read Fall 2021 General Course Policies

Blinn College does not tolerate cheating, plagiarism, or any other act of dishonesty with regard to the course in which you are enrolled.  The following text defines the faculty member’s responsibility with regard to the scholastic integrity expectation for this and all courses at Blinn College. In a case of scholastic dishonesty, it is critical that written documentation be maintained at each level throughout the process.

Students are expected to engage with each other with civility. Students are expected to be actively present in the class, not just "there." This means no using cell phones, internet browsing, IMing or DMing people outside of class, or any other extraneous activity unrelated to the course during class period.


Note: As an 8 week course it will be vital for students to keep up with the rapid pace we will cover the materials in. This will include at least two book chapters per week. There will be relatively little class time to review. That said, I again emphasize that students are encouraged to ask any questions they have about the materiel.

Week 1: American Political Culture, Constitutionalism and Federalism (Ch 1-3)

Week 2: The Civil Liberties Constitution and the Civil Rights Constitution (Ch 4-5)

Week 3: Public Opinion  and the Media (Ch 6-7)

Week 4: Political Participation, Voting, and Political Parties (why two and not more?) (Ch 8-9)

Week 5: Campaigns, Elections, and Interest Groups (Ch 10-11)

Week 6: Congress and the Presidency (Ch 12-13)

Week 7: Bureaucracy and the Courts (Ch 14-15)
Paper Due Friday December 10 by Midnight

Week 8: Policies of the USG (Ch 16-19)

Last Day to Drop with a 'Q' is December 3rd.