Department of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Social Sciences

Choate Rosemary Hall

Wallingford, Connecticut

Political Science 550AP


Mr. Ned Gallagher

Course Syllabus

Fall 2014 term

Goals of the Course
Course Policies and Grading
Texts and Course Materials
Digital Resources
Key Dates
Program and Workload
Schedule of Meetings and Assignments

Contact Information
Johnson Athletic Center #105
Memorial House #114

voice: 203-350-9612

preferred e-mail:

waving_flag.gif (8474 bytes)
"The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in the insidious encroachment by men of zeal--
well meaning but without understanding."

- Justice Louis Brandeis

Goals of Political Science 550

This course constitutes a thorough study of the institutions that comprise the United States government as well as those existing around its margins. We will analyze the creation and workings of the component branches of the federal government via two distinct academic disciplines: history and political science. At the completion of this course, students should understand the fundamental elements--both in theory and in practice--of the three branches of the federal government, and how each relates to the others, to the states, and to the people. We also will study public opinion, political participation, elections, campaigns, political parties, and the media.

In addition there will be considerable instruction in the skills needed by all historians, political scientists, and indeed citizens; specifically, we hope to develop the general intellectual skills of:

The course is designed with these aims in mind to be a co÷perative learning experience in appreciating and understanding the rich tapestry of American political life. Needless to say, no such understanding can be taught by someone else; it can only be learned for oneself.

Beyond these skills, this course aspires to cultivate in each student an appreciation of the role of an informed and active citizenry in society.

Course Policies and Grading

A summary of course policies and grading standards can be found online by clicking here.

Texts and Course Materials

This primary text for the course--available at the school bookstore--should be purchased by all students immediately:

You will need to read supplementary materials for the course, as well--most of them available online. Most days there will be a specific article assigned from such sources as The New York Times,, The Wall Street Journal, or The Washington Post.

Digital Resources

You should install the following free iOS apps on your iPad for use in class:

These official governmental websites may be useful to your studies, or perhaps just interesting to surf:

The following links connect to websites of interest to political jumkies; you may wish to bookmark them so you can visit occasionally:


This course will be orthodox in its presentation: in general, you'll read something before each meeting, and in class we'll discuss what you've read--what I call "Socratic discussion." You'll be expected to write a couple of short but demanding papers, take regular quizzes and two period tests, and participate regularly in class. There also will be a heavy premium on participation in the Model Congress segment of the course. You will be expected to play an active role in committee proceedings and in the general sessions. More on this later.

In the papers you may want to follow the "empirical essay" format and the APEC method of argument. In each case, you may write as many pages as you want, but the first three will be read and graded. (If you use notes or a bibliography, they may go on a separate sheet.)

You will need an active Dropbox account if you don't already have one, both for the submission (and return) of your written work and the Model Congress exercise.

Key Dates

As part of , you need to plan your schedule early so that you can avoid conflicts with required commitments for this course, which include a field trip to Washington, DC, and evening commitments for the Model Congress exercise. What follows are the key dates for the Model Congress and the course:

Schedule of Meetings and Assignments

What follows is what we'll try to cover during the term. It may be adjusted from time to time for any number of reasons. The homework for the next class is always the next assignment unless you are told differently. You'll find each entry on the schedule below contains some instructive questions and ideas you should consider in preparing for class; get into the habit reading the syllabus carefully each night as you begin your homework.

1. "Stand And Unfold Yourself."

In class, we'll meet each other, discuss the expectations of the course, and distribute materials you'll need.

"Doonesbury" by Garry B. Trudeau (July 31, 1975)

2. Defining Our Terms.

Read Wilson, pp. 1–11. Be sure you have a firm grasp of the dozen or so basic political terms defined in the Wilson reading. If you need help in approaching your reading assignments, there is some available online here.

Thomas Jefferson portrait by Jamie Wyeth3. We Hold These Truths To Be Self-Evident.

Read Wilson, pp. 20–25 and A1–A3 (The Declaration of Independence). Read the Declaration carefully, even if you've read it before. You ought to be able to summarize the primary grievances the American colonists had in 1776.

4. Miracle in Philadelphia I.

Read Wilson, pp. 25–32 and A4–A8 (Article I of The Constitution) and excerpt from John Locke's Second Treatise On Government. Be sure you understand the great dilemma before the state-makers in 1787: what were they trying to accomplish in "amending" the Articles of Confederation? Also, master the details concerning the 1787 convention, the Great Compromise, enumerated powers, and the hoped-for guarantees.

5. Miracle in Philadelphia II.

Read Wilson, pp. 32–39 and A8–A13 (Articles II–VII of The Constitution) and A26–A29 (Federalist #51). Some analysis of the powers of government, the powers of the other branches, and some limits. How does the Constitution reflect John Locke's vision of government? Ask for your assignment in the upcoming mass debate on the Beard thesis in class #6.

6. The Beard Thesis.

Review Wilson, p. 39–42. Also skim Wilson, pp. A14–A21 (the Constitutional amendments) so that you are generally familiar with this material, which we'll talk about later. Every historian since 1913 who has written about the Constitution has had to deal with the Beard thesis. Some love it, some hate it; there seems to be little middle ground. Be able to state it concisely, and then be able to evaluate it and prepare to argue for or against it with your classmates. There will be a mass debate today. Period Test at #10. Look ahead.

The Washington Monument7. Federalism I.

Read Wilson, pp. 52–63 and A22–A27 (Federalist #10). We will spend a couple of days considering federalism, both as a theory and as a real-life dynamic. Why did the Framers consider multiple sovereignties a good idea? Review Amendment X if you are unfamiliar with it. In class, we'll discuss the format of the first test.

8. Model Congress Introduction (Evening Meeting).

Both sections of PS550 will meet in the Humanities Rotunda for an introduction to the Model Congress exercise by the student Co-Directors.

9. Period Test #1.

Covering all the material studied since the beginning of the term. There is advice about test-taking online here.

10. Federalism II.

Read Wilson, pp. 63–73 and Marshall's decision in McCulloch v. Maryland. What happened in the Bank case? Get the facts in the case and find out where in the Constitution the applicable sections are located. With whom would you have sided? Why?

Interior View, Capitol Dome11. Congress I.

Read Wilson, pp. 314–327; Federalist ##58, 62, and 63. How are Congressional Representatives elected? What determines who wins? What conflicts are inherent in what we want in a Representative? What did you learn about the committee system?

12. Congress II.

Read Wilson, pp. 327–340. How do the following things influence what happens in the Congress: party, interest groups, committee work, staffs? Note carefully the differences in the way the House and the Senate are organized, in the way the two work, and in who has power in each and why that person has that power. These are very important matters.

13. Congress III.

Read Wilson, pp. 341–354. Theoretically speaking, how do laws get passed? Refer to Article I, Section 7 if you need to. But how do laws get enacted in reality? What influences exactly what laws are adopted and what form they take? We may have an in-class essay on some topic involving possible reforms of Congress.

14. Field Trip to Hartford.

We will visit the capital of Connecticut with an aim of understanding the practical realities of federalism at the state level.

15. Political Parties I.

Read Wilson, pp. 194–210. Since the Founding Fathers did not envision political parties as part of our Republic, why and how did they emerge? What role do parties play in modern political culture? How do parties in the U.S. differ from those abroad? How does party activity differ at the national and state/local levels?

16. Political Parties II.

Read Wilson, pp. 210–220. Extra credit problem: bring to class a brief time-line, starting at 1787 and ending at 1992, that shows the development of the current party system. Do not try to do this project if you can't do it mainly from memory. How are the parties different today from what they were in 1861, in 1896, in 1912, in 1936? What is the New Deal Coalition? What is there about the parties that demonstrates what we've learned about separation of powers and federalism? What's good about our two-party system? What's bad?

17. Elections.

Read Wilson, pp. 224–239, fairly carefully then skim through the rest of the chapter rather quickly. Don't spend more than 60 minutes on this material, but look for the major points.

detail, The Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC18. The Presidency I.

Read pp. Wilson, 360–376 and Federalist #70. Pay attention to the description of a prime minister; many people in the Vietnam/Watergate era thought that was a better system than ours. What are the powers of the President? How have they evolved from the statements in Article II, Sections 2a and 3?

19. The Presidency II.

Read pp. Wilson, 376–391. Is there a Democratic way of running the White House and a Republican way? Here is Garry Trudeau's take on one president's typical day. Where does the President get his power to make people do things? Be able to describe your answer by reference to an incident in your own life that your classmates may understand. Read the instructions for the Model Congress carefully and prepare for a quiz on the rules and procedures.

20. The Presidency III.

No homework. In class, w will discuss the U.S. v. Nixon decision. What powers does the President have that he can use against the other branches? How does he create his own program? In class, ask for instructions on how to do a "brief," and for the rules on the Mock Court cases, Texas v. Johnson, and Lee v. Weisman.

Franklin D. Roosevelt21. Paper #1 Research.

No class meeting. Instead you will use the time to research information for the first paper assignment, which is as follows:

Choose any two current members of the U.S. House of Representatives and compare and contrast their prospects for re-election in 2014. Consider the nature of their districts--what are the demographics, what major issues affect the constituents, what is the historical background of local and national elections in the district--as well as the experience, values, skills, personalities, and records of the candidates. How have the Representatives voted? Are their challengers a threat or not? How will national electoral dynamics affect these races? Your paper should be no more than three pages in length.

Useful advice on paper preparation may be found here and here.

Late work will be accepted, but, in the interest of fairness to all, it will be penalized one notch ("A-" to "B+") for each 24-hour period it is overdue.

Papers should be submitted via DropBox. (The ONLY other acceptable ways to submit papers in this course are: (a) hand it to me in class; (b) enclose it as an e-mail attachment--Microsoft Word or a text file, please; or (c) leave it with my secretary in the athletic department office. NEVER leave your paper in one of my mailboxes or slip it under the door of my office or my apartment.)

22. Paper #1 Due.

The paper is due at classtime. Your paper must be submitted via DropBox by the beginning of class. Late work will be accepted, but in the interest of fairness to all, it will be penalized one notch ("A-" to "B+") for each 24-hour period it is overdue. School policy dictates that late work accepted after the last day of classes in the term can receive a grade of no more than 50%.

Note: No class meeting on October 11 for Community Weekend project.
Since there is an accompanying break from the homework routine, use the time to work on your bill.

23. The Public.

Read Wilson, pp. 156-170. What are the most important influences on the way a person votes? On the way a person looks at issues? Do those influences affect you the way they affect most people? Consider why Americans appear less engaged in political life than their counterparts in many other countries. What would you propose to raise voter turnout? Prepare in writing a five-question poll of your classmates that you think will enable you to tell how they would vote.

24. Division of the Aisles (Evening Meeting).

Class meets in the Humanities Rotunda at 6:45 p.m. on October 14. No class the following day (Tuesday the 15th). Bills are due to the Co-Directors in both hard copy and electronic form. Please note: no extensions will be granted for this assignment.

25. Interest Groups.

Read Wilson, pp. 262–280.

26. The Fourth Estate.

Read Wilson, pp. 288–309.

27–29. Committee Hearings.

These three classes will be devoted to consideration of bills in committee. Robert's Rules of Order will be in effect. Details to come.

30. Period Test #2.

Covering all the material studied since the beginning of the term, but especially since the last period test.

31. Field Trip to Washington.

We will leave after classes on Monday, October 28 and return to campus before curfew on Wednesday, October 30.

32. Recovery.

No class meeting on Thursday, October 31, in the wake of our trip. Use this time to get caught up on rest and on your work for other courses.

33. The Bureaucracy I.

Read Wilson, pp. 402–411. To what extent do the masses of unelected civil servants wield power? How do career public officials differ in their behavior from elected politicians? Is this good? Bad?

34. The Bureaucracy II.

Read Wilson, pp. 412–425. To what extent do the masses of unelected civil servants wield power? How do career public officials differ in their behavior from elected politicians? Is this good? Bad?

35. The Courts I.

Read Wilson, pp. 430–442 and Federalist #78. Read very carefully the sidebar about Marbury v. Madison on p. 309 of the Wilson text. How is the federal court system organized? What duties does it have? Does it have any power of its own? If so, what and from where? If not, how does it get things done? Introduction to Model Congress in class.

The United States Supreme Court Building, Washington, DC36. The Courts II.

Read Wilson, pp. 442–455. What is the Supreme Court's jurisdiction? What's a "class action"? Look ahead to prepare for the cases to be argued in #38; details of this assignment and the Mock Court format may be found here.

37. The Courts III.

Read Wilson, pp. 98–121. What do these terms mean as applied to this assignment: applicablity, incorporation, distinguishing two cases, stare decisis?

38. The Courts IV: Mock Court.

Read Wilson, pp. 126–150. We'll do the Mock Court cases in class today.

39. Floor Session I (Evening Meeting).

Floor session on Tuesday night in lieu of class on 12 November. All sections of this course will meet in floor sessions of the entire House to consider the bills reported out by committee. Robert's Rules of Order will be in effect. Floor sessions will take place in the Getz Auditorium in the Icahn Science Center.

40. Floor Session II (Evening Meeting).

Floor session on Thursday night in lieu of class on 14 November.

41. Floor Session III (Evening Meeting).

Floor session on Friday night in lieu of class on 15 November.

42. Paper #2 Due.

The paper is due at classtime. Your paper must be submitted via DropBox by the beginning of class. Late work will be accepted, but in the interest of fairness to all, it will be penalized one notch ("A-" to "B+") for each 24-hour period it is overdue. School policy dictates that late work accepted after the last day of classes in the term can receive a grade of no more than 50%.

43. Wrap Up.

You will complete end-of-term evaluations in class, so think about any ideas you want to convey to your teacher about the class, the quality of instruction, and your own performance this term. Sadness will begin.

The course is ended; go in peace.

"Three Flags" by Jasper Johns
Jasper Johns, "Three Flags"