Course Description

Lecture Schedule

Reserve Readings

Library Resources

Contact Prof. Bowersox

Politics Department

Politics 210: American Politics
Fall 2003

TuTh  9:40-11:10 AM      

Dr. Joe Bowersox
Department of Politics
Smullin 333, 370-6220,
Office Hours: TBA or by appointment

Course Description
Welcome! Politics 210 seeks to deepen your understanding of American politics, including its theoretical foundations, its major institutional structures, and the individuals who occupy them. In this climate of growing political pessimism, it is essential to expand our understanding of the Founders' assumptions, and the effects their decisions {over two hundred years ago} have had on the evolution of American political structures and political action. Thus, while this course emphasizes the dimensions of modern American politics (including contemporary modes of political action, Congress, the Presidency, the bureaucra-cy, and the policy process), our analysis will continually turn to reconsider the benefits--and costs--of past political assumptions and institution-al strategies. In doing so, we may question our own assump-tions and expectations about the nature of politics, politicians, and the good society, and better equip ourselves to critically evaluate the political information (and misinformation) surrounding us today.

Given this course’s role in Willamette’s environmental science program, this section of American Politics 210 will utilize many examples from environmental politics and policy, and is tailored to meet specific needs of the environmental science curriculum.

Questions? Comments?
Questions are integral to learning; they are a sign of engaged, pondering gray matter. They are not the sign of ignorance, naivete, or inattention. If you have a question, ask it. Do not hesitate, for undoubtedly there are many others around you with the same query who think it best not to ask it. They are wrong. Since we are dealing with very contem-porary subjects, I encourage you to help me make this a lively and interesting course by demonstrating such curiosity and openness.

The following books are REQUIRED and on sale at the bookstore:

L. Berman and B.A. Murphy, Approaching Democracy (hereafter AD)
E. Wolf, Salmon Nation (SN)
B. Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed (ND)

PLUS: STUDENTS ARE REQUIRED TO READ TWO DAILY NEWSPAPERS, The local Oregon Statesman Journal (available on-line and FREE at and the Washington Post (available on-line and FREE after registration at

This course will include two midterm exams (20% or 60 points each), a final exam (20% or 60 points), one short paper (5-6 pages) worth 15% (45 points), and a discussion section/participati-on grade worth 25% (75 points) of your final grade. Many mandatory class activities, (including short reading quizes, student mini-projects, and our service learning reflections) will be evaluated in this forum, so please plan to attend religiously. A brief handout on service learning expectations and choices will be provided in week two.

A Brief Note on Attendance
Attendance is expected and viewed as a minimal requirement for satisfactorily completing this course. Students who are absent more than FOUR times during the semester without a valid excuse (legitimate medical condition or mandatory university activity) will be penalized 10% (30 points) from their total grade, and another 10% for each additional five absences. Use your quota of four sparingly, for though I do not always take attendance and you may get off lucky one day, on another you may not. I have final discretion on what is considered legitimate.

Grading will be on a straight point/percentage basis without a curve, using the following breakdown on a 300 point scale:

94% (282 points)             A
90% (270 points)             A-
87% (261 points)             B+
83% (249 points)             B
80% (240 points)             B-
77% (231 points)             C+
73% (219 points)             C
70% (210 points)             C-
67% (201 points)             D+
63% (189 points)             D
60% (180 points)             D-
59% or below (<180 pts)  F