PSCI 2306: U.S. and Texas Government

Dr. Paul Hensel
phensel@unt.edu
http://www.paulhensel.org
Office Hours: MWF 11-12 (https://unt.zoom.us/j/88557403716)

SPRING 2021 (updated January 11): the complete syllabus for the course is now available, both from this web page and from the Week 1 module on Canvas. Be sure that you have the correct syllabus for Spring 2021; some students have downloaded syllabi from previous semesters.

Please note that this web page is not the full syllabus for this course. The full syllabus -- including 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 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 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 further 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. Class performance will be measured with two (non-cumulative) multiple choice exams, a series of assignments from the course's online webtext and workbook, participation in weekly class discussion through Packback Questions, and researching and writing a letter on a political question to a relevant policymaker.

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).

 

Mahdi Amirisefat

Raul Guerrero

Kayla Parnin

For student names:

A - H

I - P

Q - Z

Email:

MohammadAmirisefat@my.unt.edu

JoseGuerrero3@my.unt.edu

KaylaParnin@my.unt.edu

Office Hours:

TTh 1:30-3 PM

T 1-2 PM, Th 1-3 PM

Th 10 AM-1 PM

Zoom Meeting Link:

https://unt.zoom.us/j/84006203085 https://unt.zoom.us/j/2023457013 https://unt.zoom.us/j/92228102625

Supplemental Instructor

One Supplemental Instructor (SI) is 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.

 

Madeline Kutac

Email:

MadelineKutac@my.unt.edu

Weekly sessions:

T 2-2:50 (https://unt.zoom.us/j/88141441491)
W 3-3:50 (https://unt.zoom.us/j/89916815294)
Th 2:30-3:20 (https://unt.zoom.us/j/81025853373)
Sun 5-6:20 (https://unt.zoom.us/j/87620015514)

Assigned Readings

Webtext access code (required): This course uses a custom electronic "webtext" that is unique to this course, which gives you access to the relevant chapters of three books that will be used for this course, without forcing you to pay for chapters that we won't be using or for the cost of printing, shipping, and shelving printed books. The three books (all published by Soomo Learning) are the following:

A single access code giving access to all three books is available for purchase at the UNT bookstore and Campus Bookstore, as well as through the Barnes & Noble link in the Canvas page for this course (ISBN 978-1949164855). If you want to avoid the bookstore markup, this access code can also be purchased directly from the publisher through Canvas (https://unt.instructure.com), by opening one of the assigned chapters and following the instructions from the login page. However you purchase your access code, once you enter it, Soomo (the publisher) will also allow you to order a printed copy of the book for what they describe as "a small fee" if you'd prefer to read a hard copy of the book rather than an electronic version.

The first two (Central Ideas in American Government and Texas Politics) are standard textbooks, offered in an electronic form that is accessible via Canvas. The third is an online workbook that includes eight chapters of text written by UNT faculty who are experts in these areas. All of these chapters include online assignments related to the content of the chapter that will form an important part of the course grade, and which can only be turned in (and graded) electronically through Canvas.

Packback (required): This course also requires students to purchase access to the Packback platform, which we will use for discussion throughout the semester (since face-to-face discussion is impossible in an online-only course like this one). More details are provided below in the Packback section under Course Requirements.

Course Requirements

(1) Midterm Examination (20%): The course's midterm exam will be given through Canvas on the date listed in the syllabus. The exam will be available to students for 24 hours, but once begun, it must be completed within 90 minutes. It will contain 50 multiple choice questions, which will draw roughly equally from the assigned readings and the instructor's lectures.

(2) Final Examination (20%): The course's final exam will be given through Canvas on the date listed in the syllabus, which will take place during final exam week on a day determined by UNT. The exam will be available to students for 24 hours, but once begun, it must be completed within 90 minutes. It will contain 50 multiple choice questions, which will draw roughly equally from the assigned readings and the instructor's lectures.

(3) "Get the Gist" Assignments (20%): The 14 chapters in the webtext from the American and Texas books include these questions within the text, for you to answer as you do the reading. You may redo these questions as many times as you'd like if you want to improve your score, but no more retakes are allowed after the midterm exam (for chapters in the first half of the course) or the last week of classes (for chapters in the second half of the course). Your lowest score from the 14 chapters will be dropped from calculation of the grade.

(4) Workbook Assignments (20%): The 8 workbook chapters in the webtext include these questions within the text, for you to answer as you do the reading. These workbook chapters are organized around the four learning objectives adopted by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (critical thinking, communication, personal responsibility, and social responsibility). You may redo the workbook questions as many times as you'd like if you want to improve your score, but no more retakes are allowed after the midterm exam (for chapters in the first half of the course) or the last week of classes (for chapters in the second half of the course). Your lowest score from the 8 workbook chapters will be dropped from calculation of the grade.

(5) Packback (15%): Participation is a requirement for this course, and the Packback Questions platform will be used for online discussion about class topics. Packback Questions is an online community where you can be fearlessly curious and ask open-ended questions to build on top of what we are covering in class and relate topics to real-world applications. ​ For a brief introduction to Packback Questions and why we are using it in class, watch this video: https://vimeo.com/163888277

(6) Letter to Policy-maker (5%): One of the central themes of PSCI 2306 is the division of policy-making power among the various branches and levels of government. Another is the importance of representation and having a government that reflects the will of the people. This assignment requires you to demonstrate core competencies of critical thinking, communication, social responsibility, and personal responsibility within the context of civic engagement in the U.S. political process. In this assignment, you will:

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.


http://www.paulhensel.org/Teaching/psci2306.html
Last updated: 20 January 2021 (updated SI contact information and schedule)
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