Introduction to Government


Political Science 261, Section 18


Fall 2006


Tuesdays and Thursdays   Melinda Kovács

12:30 – 1:50   AB1, Room 315 M

AB1 310   294 - 4993

Office Hours: T,H 2-3:30

W 4-6

or by appointment



Course description

This course serves as an introduction to federal and state government – it introduces participants to the basics of national and Texas politics. It covers the foundational principles that fuel politics as well as the institutions and structures that constitute its daily operations. Bluntly put, this course will tell you what American politics does and why it works that way.



Course objectives and goals

While this is clearly a ‘content' course intent on conveying basic introductory information about government on the federal and the state level, it is also an objective of this course to encourage critical thinking and to foster inquiry. It is my hope that in addition to introducing participants to American politics, the course will also foster responsible citizenship both among those with and those without a pronounced interest in politics. In other words, this course will allow you to develop an informed and educated position. The information will be provided, and so will be the opportunity to think and talk about it – the work of figuring out where you stand is up to you.



Course text

The textbook for this course is

Thomas Patterson: The American Democracy – Texas Edition. ISBN: 0-07-322651-3.

You are responsible for complete the readings by the time they first appear on the syllabus. Each notation on the course schedule refers to a chapter in the book. Readings marked F refer to chapters about federal politics and they are in the first half of the book. Readings marked T refer to chapters about Texas and they are in the second half of the book.



Exams and grading

There will be 3 (three) exams in this class, all of them multiple choice. They will be weighed equally and your grade in the class will be the average of your three test scores. Make-up exams will only be granted to students with official documentation of illness or family emergency – simple proof of a visit to the Health Center does not qualify unless there is clear indication that the student was too ill to attend. The format of make-up exams may be different from the regular exams. Grades will be assigned on the standard grading scale:

A = 100-90, B = 89-80, C = 79-70, D = 69-60, F = 59 and below.


Course policies



There will be no extra credit given in this class.



There will be no cell phone and pager use in this class.



All students are expected to engage in all academic pursuits in a manner that is above reproach. Students are expected to maintain honesty and integrity in the academic experiences both in and out of the classroom. Any student found guilty of dishonesty in any phase of academic work will be subject to disciplinary action. The University and its official representatives may initiate disciplinary proceedings against a student accused of any form of academic dishonesty including but not limited to, cheating on an examination or other academic work which is to be submitted, plagiarism, collusion and the abuse of resource materials. For a complete listing of the university policy, see:



Section 51.911(b) of the Texas Education Code requires that an institution of higher education excuse a student from attending classes or other required activities, including examinations, for the observance of a religious holy day, including travel for that purpose. Section 51.911 (a) (2) defines a religious holy day as: “a holy day observed by a religion whose places of worship are exempt from property taxation under Section 11.20….” A student whose absence is excused under this subsection may not be penalized for that absence and shall be allowed to take an examination or complete an assignment from which the student is excused within a reasonable time after the absence.

University policy 861001 provides the procedures to be followed by the student and instructor. A student desiring to absent himself/herself from a scheduled class in order to observe (a) religious holy day(s) shall present to each instructor involved a written statement concerning the religious holy day(s). The instructor will complete a form notifying the student of a reasonable timeframe in which the missed assignments and/or examinations are to be completed. For a complete listing of the university policy, see:



It is the policy of Sam Houston State University that individuals otherwise qualified shall not be excluded, solely by reason of their disability, from participation in any academic program of the university. Further, they shall not be denied the benefits of these programs nor shall they be subjected to discrimination. Students with disabilities that might affect their academic performance are expected to visit with the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities located in the Counseling Center . They should then make arrangements with their individual instructors so that appropriate strategies can be considered and helpful procedures can be developed to ensure that participation and achievement opportunities are not impaired.

SHSU adheres to all applicable federal, state, and local laws, regulations, and guidelines with respect to providing reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities. If you have a disability that may affect adversely your work in this class, then I encourage you to register with the SHSU Counseling Center and to talk with me about how I can best help you. All disclosures of disabilities will be kept strictly confidential. NOTE: No accommodation can be made until you register with the Counseling Center . For a complete listing of the university policy, see:



Only registered students may attend class. Exceptions can be made on a case-by-case basis by the professor. In all cases, visitors must not present a disruption to the class by their attendance. Students wishing to audit a class must apply to do so through the Registrar's Office.



Course schedule


Date       Theme             Reading

Aug 22 T     Intro to course             none

Aug 24 H     Political culture           F1

Aug 29 T     Political culture           F1

Aug 31 H     Political culture           F1

Sept 5 T     Intro to TX gvmnt           T1

Sept 7 H     Constitution             F2

Sept 12 T     Constitution             F2

Sept 14 H     Constitution             F2

Sept 19 T     Constitution             T2

Sept 21 H     Participation             F7

Sept 26 T     Participation             F7

Sept 28 H     Participation             T3

Oct 3 T     EXAM 1

Oct 5 H     Parties               F8

Oct 10 T     Parties               F8

Oct 12 H     Parties               F8

Oct 17 T     Parties               T5

Oct 19 H     Congress             F11

Oct 24 T     Congress             F11

Oct 26 H     Texas legislature           T7

Oct 31 T     EXAM 2

Nov 2 H     Presidency             F12

Nov 7 T     Presidency             F12

Nov 9 H     Governor             T8

Nov 14 T     Bureaucracy             F13

Nov 16 H     Bureaucracy             F13

Nov 21 T     Local gvmnt             T11

Nov 28 T     Judiciary             F14

Nov 30 H     Judiciary             F14

Dec 5 T     Judiciary             T9

Dec 7 H     review day


final exam to be scheduled by SHSU