Introduction to Politics and Political Analysis


POSC 120: Introduction to Politics and Political Analysis


Instructor:  Joseph J. Braunwarth, Ph.D.
E-mail: (email me from within Canvas if possible)


"...why am I so interested in politics?  If I were to answer you very simply I would say this: why shouldn't I be interested?  That is to say, what blindness, what deafness, what density of ideology would have to weigh me down to prevent me from being interested in what is probably the most crucial subject of our existence, that is to say, the society in which we live, the economic relations in which it functions, and the system of power which defines the regular forms and regular permissions and prohibitions of our conduct?  The essence of our life consists, after all, of the political functioning of the society in which we find ourselves." (Michel Foucault)


In this course we will examine the political functioning of our society through reference to actual political events occurring as the course progresses.   Some of the central questions that will be examined in this process are:


This course will introduce you to the world of politics. Essentially, what you will learn in this course is how to "see politically". Politics is much more than the competition for office or what we see on the news. While these are of course important, they only represent the tip of the political iceberg. While you may find very few advertisements for political scientists in the want ads, the study of political science helps us to understand the deeper forces and structures that shape the world in which we live. This course will help you to make sense of how we arrived at where we are now, and where we might be or even should be going in the future. Indeed, this course assumes that there are alternative ways of looking at and dealing with fundamental sociopolitical issues and problems and will examine contemporary society in this context. Some of the central questions that will be examined in this process are:


Student Learning Outcomes:

After completing this course students will:

  • Identify why governments are created and compare and contrast how power and freedom are balanced in various political systems.
  • Analyze the strengths and shortcomings of political institutions at the domestic and international levels.
  • Utilize the basic tools of political science to analyze contemporary political situations.
  • Distinguish between different ideologies and explain the historical factors underpinning their development.

Required Texts:

  • Text: Van Belle.  A Novel Approach to Politics.  CQ Press, 4th or 5th edition.
  • Reader: American Government Examined: A Reader. Joseph Braunwarth, editor.  This will be primarily used as a resource for your assignments.  This is sold in an electronic format.  You will need to refer to selections from this reader for your required written assignments.  This can be found at Grossmont College bookstore, Ross Books, or at HTTPS://
  • Online links to articles, videos and the like will be assigned throughout the semester.
  • Occasionally films and videos will be shown in class.  These are to be considered texts for this class and information from these sources may appear on exams accordingly.



This course uses the Canvas online platform for forum, email, quizzes and grades. You can access the Canvas system at:  Your Canvas user name should be your firstname.lastname and your password should be your birth date mmddyyyy.  Login and check your personal information.  An email for you is listed.  Is this the email you want to use?  If not, change it as I will be sending messages and announcements to this email throughout the semester.


Time Management:

This course requires that you keep up with readings and assignments on your own.  Each week you are required to read some chapters from the text and complete some combination of quizzes, discussion boards, or essays as noted on the schedule below.  Write down in your daily calendar when you will be working on the class; write down due dates.  Print out the schedule and check things off.  You can expect to spend 3-6 hours per week (1-2 hours per credit unit) on this course outside of class meeting time. 


Provisions for natural or technical disasters: 

Work ahead so that this is not an issue.  Seriously, don't wait until the last minute to turn something in.  However, things happen, believe it or not I am a human being and I'm willing to work with you in the event of extenuating circumstances.  I will always accept late work for half credit. 


Academic Integrity:

Honesty and integrity are values considered fundamental to academic institutions. Plagiarism or cheating on an assignment or exam are violations of these values, and can result in any one of a variety of sanctions. Such penalties may range from an adjusted grade on the particular exam, paper, project, or assignment (all of which may lead to a failing grade in the course) to, under certain conditions, suspension or expulsion from a class, program, or the college.  For further clarification and information on these issues, please consult the student affairs statement on academic fraud: You get out of life what you put into it; don’t cheat yourself.



This is a college class.  Please use proper English in communications with your instructor, much as you would with an employer, etc. (if you are serious about improving your academic or occupational situation this might be a good time to lose the " or" email addresses as well; just saying).  If possible, please use the Canvas email to contact me otherwise place your course section number in the subject line and sign your email with your full name as it appears on your college records (your Mom may call you "Pumpkin" but on my roll sheet you're still "Robert").


Turn Around Time:

I will endeavor to respond to all emails within 24 hours during the week and 48 hours on the weekend and I will endeavor to get assignment and test scores back to you in a day or two but life often intervenes.  This is the flip side to the "I am a human being" reference above.



Periodic quizzes will be available through the course Canvas site.  You will have two opportunities to take these quizzes and only your highest score will be recorded. Once you complete your two attempts, quizzes are no longer available for review.  Hint (don't tell anyone): questions on the final will be very similar to the questions on the tests and quizzes so take notes if you want to remember or review a particular question.


Discussion Boards:

Discussion Board assignments can be linked from the course Canvas page.  There is no single "right" answer to or minimum page length for your postings; what matters most is a clear understanding and utilization of the materials assigned. Analytic rigor, thoughtfulness, good writing mechanics, and clear, persuasive writing will affect your grade.  Above average postings will provide some insight or elaboration in addition to clearly presenting the assigned material.  You should be able to complete most of these postings in a few paragraphs, please no more than three (double-spaced) pages.


Tips for Success:

- I will be looking for direct references to assigned readings (author and page number are sufficient).  This is the only way I have of knowing you are reading and learning this valuable information.


- I recommend composing your content in an offline text editor and then copying and pasting in post.  That way you will have an offline copy of all of your hard work!


- You are required to reply to your peers in the forums; don't forget to complete this requirement of the activity or you will lose points.


Short Essay Assignments:

Essay assignments can be linked from the course Canvas page.  There is no single "right" answer to or minimum page length for these essays; what matters most is a clear understanding and utilization of the materials assigned. Analytic rigor, thoughtfulness, good writing mechanics, and clear, persuasive writing will affect your grade. This is one of the few opportunities I have to see if you are keeping up with the material so please integrate as many of the assigned readings in your essay as possible (author and page number are sufficient).  Please also limit yourself to the material assigned in this course.  Above average essays will provide some insight or elaboration in addition to clearly presenting the assigned material. Please include your name on the essay.  You should be able to complete most of the short essays in a few paragraphs, please no more than three (double-spaced) pages.


Final Exam:

The final exam will consist of a combination of short essay and multiple-choice questions.  Questions will cover material from the entire course, both lectures and readings. There is a link to a final review on the Supporting Materials link to the left.


Important Services at Grossmont College:


Withdrawing From a Course:

Should you decide to stop attending class, it is your responsibility to officially withdraw from the course via Self-Service.  If you do not officially drop the course, then your name will appear on the final grade roster and you will receive an F for the semester.  Which is kind of a stupid way to get an F; if you're going to fail a class, you might as well go down in flames.



Methods of Evaluation:

  • Six blackboard quizzes (20 points each):  120
  • Four discussion boards (20 points each):  80
  • Three short essays (20 points each): 60
  • Final exam:  100
  • Good karma (academic honesty, turn things in on time, college-level writing and communications):  infinite
  • Total points (I will drop the lowest quiz or discussion board; 360-20=320):  340 points

Your final grade is not curved and will be assigned according to the following table, including pluses and minuses as appropriate:

A = 90%+       (outstanding work)
B = 80-89%    (very good work)
C = 70-79%    (average, satisfactory work)
D = 60-69%    (below average, marginal work)
F = 0-59%       (unsatisfactory work)


An Optimistic Course Schedule: 



Novel Approach to Politics Readings

American Government Examined Readings

(due Sun at 11:59 p.m.)

Week 1

Ch. 1 Introducing the Ancient Debate


Introduction Discussion Board 

 Week 2

Ch. 1: Theories and Ideologies

Ch. 1 Introduction


Week 3

Ch. 2: Why Government?


Ideology Short Essay Assignment

Week 4

Ch. 2: Why Government Continued


Canvas Quiz 1: Chs. 1, 2

Week 5

Ch. 2: "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"

We Will Watch One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest 


Week 6

Ch. 3: Governing Society


Power v. Freedom Discussion Board (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest)

Week 7

Ch. 3: Governing Society Continued

Ch. 1 Milgram 
Ch. 5 Maslow

Ch. 5 Kohlberg


Week 8

Ch. 4: Government's Role in the Economy


Canvas Quiz 2: Chs. 3, 4

Week 9

Ch. 4: Government's Role in the Economy Continued


Government and the Economy Discussion Board

Week 10

Ch. 5: Structures and Institutions and
Ch. 6: The Executive

Ch. 15 Introduction
Ch. 15 Parenti

Ch. 15 Judt
Ch. 15 Braunwarth

Canvas Quiz 3: Chs. 5, 6

Week 11

Ch. 7: The Legislative


Milgram, Maslow, Kohlberg, and Mill Short Essay Assignment

Week 12

Ch. 8: The Bureaucracy

Ch. 12 Dewhirst

Ch. 13 Federalist #78
Ch. 3 Braunwarth

Ch. 8 Newton

Political Economy Week

Political Economy Week Discussion Board

Week 13

Ch. 9: The Judiciary and Ch. 10: The Democratic Ideal


Canvas Quiz 4: Chs. 7, 8

Week 14

Political Philosophy: Plato, Thoreau, King

Ch. 1 Plato

Ch. 1 Thoreau

Ch. 4 King

Canvas Quiz 5: Chs. 9,10

Week 15

Ch. 11: Media and Ch. 12: International Politics


Political Philosophy Short Essay Assignment

Week 16

Ch. 13 and Ch. 14: Political Culture and Ch. 15: The Latest Chapter

Ch. 14 Johnson

Ch. 14 Walter

Canvas Quiz 6: Chs. 11,12, 13, 14

Finals Week