American Federal Government-POS 2041
Fall, 2003 Syllabus for Virtual College
Instructor Office Hours
Prof. Maggie Rubio
Office: Room 6206 - Kendall Campus
Telephone: (305) 237-2474

E-mail: Please use "Ask the Professor" in discussion area,  to ask all non private questions about course and WebCT e-mail for private communication. 


Virtual Office Chat:
Go to Communications/Chat at a time we'll set up as a class.

Course Description

This is an introductory level course intended to give students a comprehensive overview of the institutions (Congress, Presidency, the Courts) and processes and actors (elections, voting behavior, political parties, campaigns, interest groups, and the media) which operate in the American political system. We will focus on the origins, development, and current state of American political institutions and democratic processes. Along the way we will discuss contemporary issues such as campaign finance reform, and congressional term limits.

The class begins with an intensive analysis of the Founding Fathers' objectives in forming the American Republic. We will then proceed to an analysis of the evolution of political institutions and processes. Topics will be examined from an historical perspective, with particular reference to the intentions of the original framers of the Constitution. Of particular import for the class is whether our political processes and institutions continue to operate in a manner that is consistent with the democratic principles outlined in the Constitution and which reforms, if any, are needed.

The course provides 3 college credits that are readily transferable within the Florida State University System. Click here to read the official catalogue description and course competencies.

Prerequisites and Co-requisites: None 
Textbook: We the People: An Introduction to American Politics, Shorter 4th edition. Benjamin Ginsberg, Theodore J. Lowi and Margaret Weir.W.W. Norton, 2001

Although it is not required to do so, students are strongly encouraged to read a good daily newspaper so they can follow the examples used in the lectures. The two best daily newspapers in the United States, the New York Times ( and Washington Post ( are available on-line at no charge. The student rate of 50% off the regular price for home delivery of the N.Y. Times is available to you by calling 1.800.NYTIMES and identifying yourself as my student.

Web Sites: the most important tools you have.

Be sure you use our textbook website:
Course Policies:
  • You are responsible for learning approximately 45 pages a week in your textbook, exploration and discussion, mini projects, web participation, and, of course, attending class.
  • The level of success that you wish to achieve is possible in this class. It requires however that you commit to being an active participant. You must devote adequate time to your reading, complete your required assignments accurately and on time, and study. Participate in class by using our Web site. Ask questions, seek help, put forth your maximum effort and you will inevitably reap the benefits. Check out the course requirements.
  • Review course calendar and assignments to be familiar with our plan of study. Stick to the schedule.  Your tests are to be taken on line. You will have a limited amount of time and you can only take the test once.  
  • It is your responsibility to ensure that you are properly registered or withdrawn from this course via the Registrar by the proper dates.
  • I do not keep any reports, tests, or other items you turn in.However the WebCT server does keep a record of everything. This include the times you go on line and where  do you go. I use this information to award participation points.
  • Academic dishonesty will not be tolerated. Students involved in any form of academic dishonesty (cheating, plagiarism, etc.,) will receive a grade of "F" for the course.
General Criteria for Grading: (See requirements for specifics)
  • Students who get top grades (A, B+) generally:
    • Are self starters and stick to deadlines. Realistically take time needed to reach their goals. Spend the 6-7 hours needed to really learn a chapter/unit well, take all quizzes, answer study guide questions and review frequently.
    • Review carefully and productively, do not fall behind, participate actively in discussions.
    • Frequently report to me about what's working for them in the course and what needs to be improved.  Don't be shy. Your feedback is tremendously important  In a distance course-I can't "read" you the same as I can in face-to-face contact. 
    • take all quizzes, print out and answer study guide and essay questions.
    • Enjoy reading alternative sources that don't necessarily agree with their assumptions. (If you are conservative read The Nation, if are liberal The Weekly Standard) if they are conservative, and other papers as needed (on-line is fine). This reflects in their discussions, participation, and other written work such as postings, chapter reviews, etc.
    • Turn in high-quality written work which reflects reading, research, well-conceived arguments, originality, clarity of thought, and integration of course material.
  • Students who get middle grades (B, C+) generally :
    • spend maybe 5-6 hours a chapter, and occasionally take practice quizzes. Do not make time to use web sites.
    • turn in acceptable written work, with no serious deficiencies in writing. They meet deadlines generally. Their work is readable and typed.
    • complete assigned readings and participate in discussions, asking occasional questions.
  • Students who get low and failing grades ( D, F) generally:
    • get off to a bad start by starting late, fall behind and drop out of sight. They complete only part of their readings, rely too much on chapter summaries, do not take practice quizzes, do not bother to answer study guide questions. Only spend around 4 hours studying a chapter. Learning takes time.
    • do not devote the 3-4 hours that it takes to learn each chapter at about a C level; make excuses such as that they "do not have time, have too many course, have to much to do at work, etc."
    • don't contact me when they run into problems. 
    • a poor grade doesn't indicate to a lack of intelligence, but rather lack of prioritizing, inadequate discipline and planning.  Decide what your priorities are.
American Federal Government- POS 2041-  MDC - Virtual College
Updated August, 2003 Miami-Dade College