Project Vision

Course Syllabus


Textbook: American Government & Politics Today: The Essentials: Bardes, Shelley and Schmidt.



Course Description:

This course focuses on an analysis of public policy, political institutions and the nature of leadership in the contemporary United States. Various policies will be examined in the context of American political culture, the constitutional framework, and the structural-functional relationships within the U.S. National Government. There will be a thorough analysis of the interaction of concepts such as power, influence, leadership, decision-making, conflict, and consensus.


Course Requirements:

1. Conscientious and substantive participation in group discussions.

2. Complete and timely fulfillment of all assigned readings and examinations, projects, and analytical papers.

3. Satisfactory completion of all "laboratories" activities.

4. All assignments must be completed.


* Note: All assignments and tests must be completed on the scheduled date. The only exception is for medical reasons. Drastic penalties will be assessed for LATE submission of report


Special Notes:


A. Political Science 1, American National Government, Fall 98, is being taught by Charles Kennedy at Penn State York Campus as part of Project Vision. The course is primarily a student-centered approach to learning. Rather than depending on regularly scheduled lecture classes to acquire information, the students have access to technology that will allow them to learn on and off campus through links on the Internet and in multimedia- always working together with teammates and faculty


B. The course emphasizes individual learning free of time constraints of formal class meetings and lectures. Political Science 1 - Project Vision has been transformed into a Political Science Laboratory emphasizing the innovative techniques of "active and collaborative" learning. Active learning is the goal. It emphasizes student responsibility. Active learning emphasizes advanced cognitive skills rather that the recall of basic facts and a devotion of life-long learning over one-time mastery. It moves beyond the theories of the textbook to the adventurous and risky business of using knowledge.


Collaborative learning is the means. It emphasizes cooperative intellectual work among students in decision making, problem solving, research and analysis. Collaborative learning refers to demanding academic work that students do in groups, in or out of the classroom. The main activity is interaction. Students interact not merely to express their view but to justify, modify, and clarify their ideas.


 Aug. 28  The Constitution
 Sept. 4  Political Parties
 Sept. 11  (Continued)
 Sept. 18  Campaigns
 Sept. 25   (Continued)
 Oct. 2 1  The Presidency
 Oct. 9  (Continued)
 Oct. 16  The Bureaucracy
 Oct. 23  The Congress
 Oct. 30  (Continued)
 Nov. 6  Interest Groups
 Nov. 13  The Judiciary
 Nov. 20  (Continued)
 Nov. 27  Civil Liberties
 Dec. 4  (Continued)

*A Guideline - Subject to Change




















  below 60%


The course will be traditional in the sense that a.) the students are responsible for thoroughly reading the text, and b.) there will be a mid-term and final exam based on the readings. The course will be non-traditional in the emphasis on the Political Science "Laboratory" technique. The Laboratory activities emphasize the principles of active and collaborative learning. Additionally, all discussion between students should be by e-mail and your first class room, if possible. The students should also note the Logging on section at the end of each chapter, which provides suggestions on how to access information on the Internet that relates to topics covered in the chapter. Also refer to my WEB SURFING 1 & 2, SELECTED WEB SITES, and POLITICS ON THE NET. These laboratory activities include:


1. Games & Simulations - the students will play and evaluate a series of computer games and simulations dealing with politics, government, and public policy. Each student will be responsible for reviewing 3 games and/or simulations. This project may also be done in teams of 2; but the team is then responsible for reviewing 6 games and/or simulations. For a partial list, see my COMPUTER SIMULATIONS & GAMES. The attached GAMES & SIMULATION EVALUATION FORM is to be used for reviewing the games and simulations.


2. "What if . . ." and "Thinking Politically About . . " The features are designed to help the student think critically and politically about contemporary political issues & events. The students are to select 5 of these features, discuss them among the group (3 Students) and attempt to reach a consensus. Note: The group should decide which feature to evaluate. The features may be selected from any chapter in the book. Each student is responsible for submitting the attached ISSUES ANALYSIS FORM - summarizing the discussion and the consensus report. If a consensus cannot be reached - majority and minority reports should be filed.


3. Getting Involved is based on the principle that the best way for students to get a firmer understanding of the American political system is by "direct participation." This feature offers suggestions on how to get involved. Each student is to select on of these features and get involved by writing or doing certain actions.


This feature is contained at the end of each chapter. Once a student decides which "Getting Involved" activity they want, they should notify me immediately. There will be only one person to an activity, so first come - first selection. You may pick a feature from any chapter in the book. A copy of the letter or summary of activities must be submitted to me.


4. Question for Review and Discussion features many thought provoking questions about contemporary issues. Working in groups (3), the students are to select 5 issues, follow the same guidelines for #2 "What if. . ." and submit a report using the same report form as #2.


The question for Review are listed at the end of each chapter. The groups are limited, however, to the following selections:


Question(s) #




















5. Major Web Surfing Project (Individual or team project) The students are to select an issue from either WEB SURFING PROJECTS 1 or WEB SURFING 2 and develop a major analytical research paper. The paper should be approximately 6-8 pages. Since the goal of this paper is to encourage students to think critically, the paper should consist of a thesis which the students endeavor to confirm or refute. This is also first come first choice in selecting topics.


6. Web Surfing Summaries (Individual or team project - each student responsible for 10 sites) From my SELECTED WEB SITES, POLITICS ON THE NET and the LOGGING ON sections in the book each student is to select and review 10 web sites. The review should include: a summary, a list of the 5 most interesting features on the site, and your comments on how and to whom this information is useful. Special Rules: - no more than 2 Web Sites per chapter, - there must be at least 3 selected from each of the above listings, - Teams must choose completely different sites. They will need to negotiate their selections.


7. Simulation Game - This will involve an interactive simulation & analytical report between students at different sites. It will also involve several Picture Tel sessions.


Special Note: The individuals, teams (2 people), and/or groups (3 people) should notify me as soon as these are determined for the particular project. Teams and/or groups will be required to rotate on each project. It is expected that the student will take the initiative and responsibility to organize and implement this strategy.


Laboratory Activity Due Dates:

  Date for selection of topic Reports Due Points
 What if. . . & Thinking Politically+




 Getting Involved~




Mid Term Exam~




Web Surfing Summaries*




Games & Simulations*




Questions for Review & Discussion+




 Simulation Game



 Major Web Surfing Project*




Final Exam


 c. 12-14


Total Points:550