WELCOME TO UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS: POLS 202
I'm anticipating a great semester working with you to understand how our political system works (or sometimes doesn't work!).
You’re probably wondering, why study US politics? Or for that matter, why study political science at all?
We’ll address these questions throughout the semester. Here are a few thoughts to get us started.
"If men were angels, no government would be necessary." –James Madison
"Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except all those others that have been tried from time to time." --Winston Churchill
"Every election is determined by the people who show up." –Larry Sabato
"When widely followed public figures feel free to say anything, without any fact-checking, it becomes impossible for a democracy to think intelligently about big issues." –Thomas Friedman
Instructor: Mark Weber firstname.lastname@example.org
This is a fully online class. No mandatory meetings!
The course runs 18 weeks: January 17 - May 19
Instructor Contact: The best way to contact me is email. I'll be able to respond to your emails within 24 hours, and usually sooner.
Zoom Student Hours: These are times when I’ll be on Zoom and available to answer questions or assist with any difficulties you may be having. There will be a link on our homepage so you can easily make an appointment to meet with me on Zoom.
A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR INSTRUCTOR
I’m Mark Weber and I’ve been teaching at Cuesta for over 30 years. I always have great students and teaching is a great gig!
I have two top priorities for my students this semester. One is that you succeed in the class. The best way I’ve found to make that happen is to make sure that everything about the class is crystal clear and organized. In this class you’ll always know what’s on your plate. The other priority is that you learn to think like a political scientist and walk away from the class with some larger understanding of how our political system works.
As for qualifications, I have BA degrees from Humboldt State University in history and geography. My MA degree is in history from Vanderbilt University. I’m the co-author of Critical Thinking and American Government: Exercises and Applications.
Outside of professional life and over on the hobby side, I’m a grape grower and wine-maker specializing in Pinot Noir, Grenache, and Syrah. Cheers.
ABOUT THE COURSE AND WORK EXPECTATIONS
Everything we do will be based on Canvas (Cuesta’s Learning Management System).
The course will be organized by weekly modules. Each week you’ll complete the text readings and other assignments specified in that week’s module. You will also view 4 - 6 short narrated PowerPoint videos which will be embedded in each week’s module.
At the end of each week you'll take a multiple-choice quiz covering that week's assignments.
In addition to our weekly quizzes, we'll have several graded student discussions on some of our more interesting and provocative topics. (And we'll also be in contact via messaging on the social media app Pronto.)
The total time you’ll need each week to view the videos and take notes from the videos will be about the same amount of time you would be spending in a face-to-face class: 3 hours per week.
You should plan to spend an additional 6 hours per week on the text readings and other assignments.
So the total average time per week you should expect to spend to succeed in this class is about 9 hours per week.
I have some great narrated PowerPoint videos for you that are definitely NOT BORING!
Everything you’ll need to know about how the course works and how to succeed will be carefully and fully explained in our Week 1 Canvas module.
The number one rule for online learning on Canvas is to be patient, proceed slowly, and read directions very carefully. This online class is not inherently easier than a face-to-face class, although many students will find it more convenient. I’m very good at providing crystal clear directions on everything. In fact, I'm The King of Clear Directions!
If you’re not sure an online class is for you, go to the Online Readiness Resources to do a "self-assessment.” There are resources there to help you understand the the skills necessary to succeed in an online class. If you find that the tutorials do not describe you, then you may want to reconsider taking an online class and enroll in a face-to-face class instead. Online learning isn’t a good fit for everyone.
WHAT MY STUDENTS SAY:
I run a survey of student opinion at the end of every semester so I can improve the course. Here are a few representative student comments from last semester.
"I've really enjoyed this course! It's structured better than any other online course I've ever taken (which is a lot). I liked how consistently the weeks were set up, they made it very easy to have a set schedule. I also really liked how the material came from multiple sources every week, and that the sources were interesting (as they were usually on a subjects that I hadn't previously taken time to learn about). The narrated power point videos were entertaining and held my attention, which is not an easy thing to do. I think having multiple shorter videos was much more effective than having one long lecture each week like many of my other classes have had."
"I really enjoyed drop-in office hours on Zoom! Our discussions and your article recommendations really helped to deepen my understanding of the topics we studied. I even got to meet a couple of classmates! I felt a little more connected to my education and more engaged as a citizen. Thank you for helping my Cuesta experience feel a little more real during a time that has definitely been surreal. Good luck with your next class!"
"Thank you for paving the road for a smooth, swell semester. I didn't feel overwhelmed or confused with your assignments, because you did such a great job at describing what you wanted, and left no room for mess ups. Your clear, focused messages allowed us, the students, to succeed in an especially overwhelming semester with so much going on. ps. your weekly videos were especially crucial for my success in this class, and I want to let you know those moments where you tell us to "take no notes, and just listen to this story" where some of my favorite in the class, because I felt it was almost like a group circle, talking about the latest hottest gossip amongst the founders, congressmen, senators, justices, etc."
The text we'll be using is: Living Democracy, 3nd edition, by Shea, Green, and Smith, published by Soomo Learning.
This is a great text! Many students tell me that they appreciate how the authors explain and emphasize pathways that citizens can use to influence and shape government policies and actions.
This is the only text you need for our class. You do not need to purchase any other text or any other course material of any kind.
The cost of digital version of the text will be $50.00. I'll tell you everything you need to know about purchasing the text as the start of the semester approaches.
WE’RE OFF TO A GREAT SEMESTER!
Accessing Our Course on Canvas When the Semester Begins: It's easy! Just go to Cuesta.edu and click on Canvas on the bar at the top of the page. Then click on our course and that will take you to our home page which has everything you need to get started.
Regular and Effective Instructor Contact will be met through threaded discussion forums; weekly announcements to students; timely and effective feedback on student assignments; email; messaging on Pronto; and Zoom student hours.
Brief Course Description
We’ll survey and examine the institutions, operation, and politics of the United States government and throw in some examples from California state government as well. We’ll explore the structures and functions of the US government by considering their historical development and their relation to political power and interest today. Importantly, this course aims to encourage critical and analytical thinking about national problems and dilemmas.
Here's the link to Cuesta's Online Resources and Tech Support
If you are having difficulty viewing the course or logging in, it may be because you are not using the correct url: https://cuesta.instructure.com/ or you are using your phone or using an unsupported browser.
Your online learning environment is best accessed from a desktop or laptop computer, using Chrome or Firefox. If something isn’t working the first thing you should do is try a different browser. Please review the browser requirements and minimum computer specifications.
This course is designed using an accessible Learning Management System, and course materials have been created with ADA compliance in mind. If you have a disability and need accommodations in this class such as extended time on exams or other resources please be sure your accommodations are authorized by DSPS (Disabled Student Programs & Services) and please inform me at your earliest convenience so I can work with you to meet whatever the need is.
Cuesta and Course Policies
All of my course policies will be spelled out for you in detail in our Week 1 Canvas module. All Cuesta College policies that apply in the online environment will be adhered to by instructor and students alike. Here's the link to Cuesta's academic honesty policy and the student code of conduct.
I'M LOOKING FORWARD TO MEETING YOU ONLINE!