PSCI 1040: American Government: Laws and Institutions (Fall 2016)

Dr. Paul Hensel
Office: 165 WH

Please note that this web page does not include the full syllabus for this course. The remainder of the syllabus -- most notably the schedule of assigned readings, course exams, and other assignments -- is only available in the full syllabus (PDF Format). Be sure to print out that complete syllabus and be familiar with it, so that you do not fall behind or miss any assignments during the semester.

Course Description

This course is meant to introduce students to the government and politics of the United States and Texas, and is required by the Texas legislature for all students in colleges or universities receiving public funding. We will focus on the laws and institutions that make up the U.S. and Texas political systems, including the constitution and the three branches of government. We will also examine a number of issues that are affected by these laws and institutions, including questions related to federalism, civil liberties, and civil rights. Upon completion of this course, students should have a broad understanding of the fundamentals of American and Texas government and politics, and they should be able to think critically about current and past political events in these political systems. This should be useful both for being an educated voter and citizen and for taking upper-division courses on the subject.

It should be noted that this is not a course in current events, although some reference will obviously be made to current events. Also, I do not seek to indoctrinate students with my own personal opinions or political views, whatever these might be. Rather, my goal is to provide students with the tools to evaluate events themselves and form their own opinions. Students are expected to attend every class meeting, having already done the assigned reading; class lectures will assume a basic understanding of the readings and will go beyond the content of those readings, rather than simply restating them. Class performance will be measured with three (non-cumulative) exams that combine multiple choice and short answer/identification questions, as well as a series of assignments from the course's online workbook.

Teaching Assistants

The teaching assistants should be your first resource for any administrative or procedural questions related to the course (such as late assignments, missing homework, or incorrect grades). If you have a complaint, please only contact me after you have spoken with the TA, and be sure to clarify what you and s/he have already done to try to resolve the problem. Of course, you may always contact your TA or the instructor with any substantive questions related to the course (and you are especially encouraged to do so during our scheduled office hours).


Tyler Burggren

Yen-Hsin (Clyde) Chen

Hope Dewell Gentry

Sebastian Graham

For student names:

A - F

G - L

M - R

S - Z


360 Wooten Hall

127 Wooten Hall

360 Wooten Hall

354 Wooten Hall

Office Hours:

TTh 11-12:30

MWF 10-11

MW 10:30-12

MW 11-12:30

Office Phone:






Sebastian Graham

Supplemental Instructors

Three Supplemental Instructors (SIs) are provided by UNT for all students who want to improve their understanding of the material taught in this course. SI sessions are led by a UNT student who has already mastered the course material and has been trained to facilitate group sessions where students can meet to compare class notes, review and discuss important concepts, develop strategies for studying, and prepare for exams. Attendance at SI sessions is free and voluntary. A schedule of SI meetings will be made available early in the semester.


Grant Robertstad

Kelsey Rodriguez

Jeanne-Anne Tye


Kelsey Rodriguez

Weekly sessions:

M 10-10:50, LANG 311
T 4-4:50, LANG 311
W 1-1:50, BLB 155

M 2-2:50, LANG 310
T 1-1:50, Wooten 315
W 11-11:50, Curry 211

T 4-4:50, LANG 201
Th 9-9:50, AUDB 218
F 2-2:50, SAGE 329

Assigned Readings

Both of these books are available at the UNT Bookstore, and should be available at other Denton-area bookstores -- but they are almost certainly not available at any online bookstores such as Amazon, because these are custom editions put together for UNT students. You may, of course, purchase the full Patterson book from any source (as long as you purchase the correct edition), but be aware that some chapters of that book are used for PSCI 1050 and will not be used in this course, some of the chapter numbers will not match the ones listed in this syllabus (because the custom edition renumbered the included chapters), and you need to be sure to buy the "Texas edition" of that book to get access to the Texas-specific chapters that we will use here.

Required ("text"): Thomas Patterson, American Government: Laws and Institutions, 11th edition. Custom Edition for UNT Political Science 1040 from McGraw Hill Education.  [ISBN 9781259746321]

Required ("workbook"): Matthew Eshbaugh-Soha, ed. (2015). Political Science 1040 Workbook: Laws and Institutions. Soomo Publishers.  [ISBN 9780991135578]

Here are pictures of the textbook packet and workbook access code, as sold in the UNT Bookstore in the new Union:

Front cover of textbook packet Picture of workbook access code

Course Requirements

(1) Examinations: Three (non-cumulative) exams will be given in class. Each exam counts for 25% of the course grade (so the three exams together account for 75% of the total grade), and will draw roughly equally from the assigned readings and the instructor's lectures. Each will contain 40 multiple choice questions, and 5 short answer/fill-in-the-blank questions. Be sure to be on time to the exam; once the first student leaves the room after the exam starts, anybody else entering to take the exam will lose five letter grades.

(2) Workbook Assignments: There will also be eight workbook assignments included as part of the assigned workbook chapters, which are due on the dates listed in the class schedule on this syllabus. These will give you a chance to check your understanding of the reading when you are first doing it, and can be very helpful in making sure that you understand the material before you come to class (and before you take the exams). These assignments must be completed electronically through the course workbook (via Blackboard); your grades will automatically be recorded as you complete them. Your combined total score across all workbook assignments for the course will count as 25% of the total course grade.

You must complete at least seven (7) of these eight (8) workbook assignments. Assignments may be completed late for partial credit, but any assignment that is completed after the start of class on the due date will be assessed a 50% penalty (the only exception is the first assignment, for which no late penalty will be assessed due to students adding/dropping the course and late financial aid that may prevent some students from purchasing their access codes before the due date). A given assignment may be repeated for a potentially higher score with no penalty before the due date, but remember that redoing an assignment after the start of class on the due date will still be assessed a 50% penalty. If you complete all eight assignments, your lowest of the eight grades will be dropped from calculation of the grade. Please note that failing to complete at least seven workbook assignments before the course’s final examination means that you did not complete the course requirements, and will mean an automatic failing grade for the course.

Rest of Syllabus

The remainder of the syllabus -- course rules, notes about academic integrity and the Americans with Disabilities Act, and assigned readings -- is only available in the complete syllabus (in PDF format). Be sure to print out that complete syllabus and be familiar with it, so that you do not fall behind or miss any assignments during the semester.

Internet Resources

You might find the following resources to be helpful in studying American politics. Most of these are documents that were mentioned in lecture, or that offer useful insight into American (or Texas) government and politics. This section of the syllabus will be updated as the semester moves along.

The 2016 Election

Introduction / Political Culture

The Constitution

Early Documents

The U.S. Constitution

The Texas Constitution

Federalism / State and Local Government

General Issues in Federalism: National vs. State Governments

Local Government in Denton

The Legislative Branch

The U.S. Congress

The Texas Legislature

The Executive Branch

The U.S. President

The Federal Bureaucracy

The Texas Governor and Bureaucracy

The Judicial Branch

The Federal Court System

The Texas Court System

Civil Liberties

Civil Rights
Last updated: 6 September 2016
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