American Government

Course Content from McGraw-Hill
Course Number: POLS101
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"We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union…" These are the first words of the United States Constitution, the country’s most important government document. What did the framers of this document envision as a "more perfect union?" In this course, you will explore the result of their vision—the American government. You will discover how the founders created a democracy based upon the ideals of liberty, equality, and self-government. You will explore how the government is structured and how it operates, and you will examine the three branches of government—legislative, executive, and judicial—that make up the system of checks and balances. You will find that although the Constitution in principle grants certain rights and liberties to the people, many groups have not been allowed those rights in practice and have had to fight for them. But as you will discover, the very nature of the United States government means that the people have a voice, and that the Constitution is a living document, because it can be adapted and amended to change with the times.

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3
college credits
Course Type Icon
Self Paced
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Humanities
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66 Reviews
Overall Rating
Content Rating
  • 10/24/14 by nsenman
    Interesting subject. I learned alot about America and how it was founded.
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  • 10/24/14 by nsenman
    Interesting subject. I learned alot about America and how it was founded.
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    Overall Rating
  • 10/17/14 by stevefitch
    Easy course to succeed. Read book. Listen to presentations if you need entertainment, they are a joke. Open book tests.
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  • 10/17/14 by stevefitch
    Easy course to succeed. Read book. Listen to presentations if you need entertainment, they are a joke. Open book tests.
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  • 10/7/14 by emily.m
    It was good, the final wasnt really what we studied but it was good!
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  • 9/29/14 by harrison.william54
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  • 9/29/14 by harrison.william54
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  • 9/28/14 by andrewmays85
    Course had a lot of information, but the tests seemed overly difficult at times.
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    Overall Rating
  • 9/28/14 by andrewmays85
    Course had a lot of information, but the tests seemed overly difficult at times.
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    Overall Rating
  • 9/25/14 by karlie.c
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  • 9/25/14 by karlie.c
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  • 9/18/14 by runnerjeremy91
    I like how I learned more and it was a faster way than sitting in the class for a whole semester.
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  • 9/18/14 by runnerjeremy91
    I like how I learned more and it was a faster way than sitting in the class for a whole semester.
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    Overall Rating
  • 9/8/14 by millerdarrenj
    The powerpoints give you a lot of information that is not on the tests.
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    Overall Rating
  • 9/2/14 by oswald_johnathan
    This course is a decent load. I learned a lot and brushed up on a lot of the concepts I learned back in High school.
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    Overall Rating
  • 9/1/14 by gina.d
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  • 8/30/14 by RoxanneG
    I would not have chosen to take this course if the program I want to get into would have allowed something else in its place. However the book is not just full of facts but provides stories that go along with the subjects that make it more interesting.
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  • 8/30/14 by RoxanneG
    I would not have chosen to take this course if the program I want to get into would have allowed something else in its place. However the book is not just full of facts but provides stories that go along with the subjects that make it more interesting.
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    Overall Rating
  • 8/29/14 by diazc4
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  • 8/29/14 by diazc4
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  • 8/29/14 by lorellaj
    This was my 1st online class and I needed it asap to fulfill my school requirements and I am now a believer. I am already a lover of politics,but I think I can run for a government office after taking this online course! The book was a GREAT choice because he spoke in present-day language and terms. I thought I could get away with just doing the online lessons and NOT reading the book...BIG mistake. I got a D on the first exam and it straightened me up! I don't think I have ever read an entire school textbook in my entire undergrad career, but I found that it was necessary for me to pass each exam.
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  • 8/29/14 by lorellaj
    This was my 1st online class and I needed it asap to fulfill my school requirements and I am now a believer. I am already a lover of politics,but I think I can run for a government office after taking this online course! The book was a GREAT choice because he spoke in present-day language and terms. I thought I could get away with just doing the online lessons and NOT reading the book...BIG mistake. I got a D on the first exam and it straightened me up! I don't think I have ever read an entire school textbook in my entire undergrad career, but I found that it was necessary for me to pass each exam.
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  • 8/23/14 by blackout833
    An excellent overview of our current system and it's history. Would prefer a completely up-to-date text, but I still thought this book was very well written and a valuable resource. I recommend buying the hardcopy text from a used book seller.
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  • 8/23/14 by blackout833
    An excellent overview of our current system and it's history. Would prefer a completely up-to-date text, but I still thought this book was very well written and a valuable resource. I recommend buying the hardcopy text from a used book seller.
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    Overall Rating
  • 8/18/14 by orourkk
    The book was easy to read, straight forward without lots of extra unneeded wording. The lessons did not follow too much of what was tested. Good overview of the history and ins/outs of our government.
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  • 8/18/14 by orourkk
    The book was easy to read, straight forward without lots of extra unneeded wording. The lessons did not follow too much of what was tested. Good overview of the history and ins/outs of our government.
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    Overall Rating
  • 8/14/14 by orourkk
    Pretty good overview of the history and day to day goings on in American government. There were a quite a few times I had to really look hard to answers to questions on the tests and with no real study guide provided, it was challenging at times.
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  • 8/14/14 by orourkk
    Pretty good overview of the history and day to day goings on in American government. There were a quite a few times I had to really look hard to answers to questions on the tests and with no real study guide provided, it was challenging at times.
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    Overall Rating
  • 8/9/14 by millerdarrenj
    The powerpoints give you a lot of information that is not on the tests.
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    Overall Rating
  • 8/3/14 by ander123
    The textbook was excellent, well-organized and good supporting examples. The media links and videos associated with online assignments were interesting and helpful to grasp broad concepts. I found myself heading off on tangents to dive deeper into a subject, even though I promised to stay 'on task." I now know a lot more than I did when I learned this information in junior high, and have such a better context for the information after having a lot more life experience now. The only issue I have with the book and the course is that the world has changed significant since 2006, when the book was published. The impact of the internet and the Obama era have significantly changed our world - but on the balance, the principles that emanated from the course are the main benefit, and those can be applied to any era. I was thankful for open-book exams, because they allowed me to focus on concepts and broad ideas, rather than trying to guess which details to memorize. I think that is the best model for measuring a student's comprehension of a topic. Thanks for the great experience..
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  • 7/31/14 by jbrewer7867
    A good course overall. Covers the basics of the subject matter for general education requirements.
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  • 7/31/14 by jbrewer7867
    A good course overall. Covers the basics of the subject matter for general education requirements.
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    Overall Rating
  • 7/30/14 by nighthawk117aca1
    This course worked extremely well with my military schedule throughout a full move to a new duty station. It enabled me to meet the requirements necessary to attend my graduate school this fall.
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  • 7/30/14 by nighthawk117aca1
    This course worked extremely well with my military schedule throughout a full move to a new duty station. It enabled me to meet the requirements necessary to attend my graduate school this fall.
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  • 7/27/14 by jandtheboys
    This course was very basic and easy to finish quickly. The test questions are mostly taken from the book, so you can't skip reading it, but most of the lesson portion is pointless and there are sections where you can tell the slides they built for it were copied and pasted from another course but never updated with the right info, because you would be reading along about government and all of a sudden come across something related to a health class or something. Ridiculous. Still, for $49, I'll take my credit and go.
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  • 7/27/14 by jandtheboys
    This course was very basic and easy to finish quickly. The test questions are mostly taken from the book, so you can't skip reading it, but most of the lesson portion is pointless and there are sections where you can tell the slides they built for it were copied and pasted from another course but never updated with the right info, because you would be reading along about government and all of a sudden come across something related to a health class or something. Ridiculous. Still, for $49, I'll take my credit and go.
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    Overall Rating
  • 7/18/14 by caitlinbren
    The course was very well designed to cover various aspects of American Government.
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  • 7/18/14 by caitlinbren
    The course was very well designed to cover various aspects of American Government.
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    Overall Rating
  • 7/10/14 by emily.m
    It was good, the final wasnt really what we studied but it was good!
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    Overall Rating
  • 6/27/14 by skyemishel
    self-paced American government course
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  • 6/27/14 by skyemishel
    self-paced American government course
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    Overall Rating
  • 6/17/14 by sgrif001
    It was very straightforward. Read the text and it's easy
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  • 6/17/14 by sgrif001
    It was very straightforward. Read the text and it's easy
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  • 6/13/14 by escheiderer
    Overall I enjoyed the course. It is one that you have to do all the readings and should spend more time on them than the topics to be successful on the exams.
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  • 6/13/14 by escheiderer
    Overall I enjoyed the course. It is one that you have to do all the readings and should spend more time on them than the topics to be successful on the exams.
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    Overall Rating
  • 6/6/14 by supertima13
    It was challenging
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  • 6/6/14 by supertima13
    It was challenging
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  • 6/1/14 by hilarybanks80
    A great course!
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  • 6/1/14 by bhv4320
    I really enjoyed it. I consider myself politically aware, but there was a great deal about the structure of the government that I didn't know about. It explains a lot about our current political climate. I found the text to be particularly enlightening, although I think it is about time to update to a newer edition.
    Content Rating
    Overall Rating
  • 3/8/14 by ander123
    The textbook was excellent, well-organized and good supporting examples. The media links and videos associated with online assignments were interesting and helpful to grasp broad concepts. I found myself heading off on tangents to dive deeper into a subject, even though I promised to stay 'on task." I now know a lot more than I did when I learned this information in junior high, and have such a better context for the information after having a lot more life experience now. The only issue I have with the book and the course is that the world has changed significant since 2006, when the book was published. The impact of the internet and the Obama era have significantly changed our world - but on the balance, the principles that emanated from the course are the main benefit, and those can be applied to any era. I was thankful for open-book exams, because they allowed me to focus on concepts and broad ideas, rather than trying to guess which details to memorize. I think that is the best model for measuring a student's comprehension of a topic. Thanks for the great experience..
    Content Rating
    Overall Rating
  • 2/9/14 by oswald_johnathan
    This course is a decent load. I learned a lot and brushed up on a lot of the concepts I learned back in High school.
    Content Rating
    Overall Rating
  • 1/9/14 by gina.d
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    Overall Rating
  • 1/6/14 by hilarybanks80
    A great course!
    Content Rating
    Overall Rating
  • 1/6/14 by bhv4320
    I really enjoyed it. I consider myself politically aware, but there was a great deal about the structure of the government that I didn't know about. It explains a lot about our current political climate. I found the text to be particularly enlightening, although I think it is about time to update to a newer edition.
    Content Rating
    Overall Rating
  • 9/23/13 by sherri
    I loved this course. I learned a great deal about our government. I loved the format of the course. It was easy to navigate.
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  • 9/6/13 by davis6504
    I really enjoyed taking this class. I learned a lot.
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  • 8/31/13 by melissajsmith30
    The American Democracy through the Bush Administration
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  • 8/13/13 by krisnpeters
    This course was great. The textbook was especially helpful, and concepts were explained well.
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  • 8/9/13 by ceejay9110
    This course was difficult to get through because there was a massive amount of reading. Also, the chapters assigned didn't match up with what was tested. So on a few of the exams, I found myself trying to answer questions outside the scope of the what was supposed to be tested (for example, an exam on chapters 1-3 had a question from chapter 5).
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  • 8/5/13 by barb.wilson
    Alot of good information. Easy to follow.
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  • 7/29/13 by kimberlygs
    My only complaint was that I had to use firefox, chrome and explorer during the course. I couldn't do everything in one place
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  • 7/26/13 by jennyrobish
    Pretty straight forward. Read the book and complete the quizzes/exams. The book is VERY important!
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  • 7/14/13 by tbwyo
    This a nice introductory course to american government and political science. It touches on various aspects of our governmental system from the 3 branches to domestic and foreign policy issues.
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  • 7/6/13 by teradch
    I really like the convenience of the course. However, I wish there were more challenging practice quiz or questions to prepare the exams. I feel the flash games don't help much to prepare the exams.
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  • 7/1/13 by w.s.stanphill
    The course covers a wide range of topics concerning government- from is beginnings to how it is currently.
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  • 5/22/13 by angeladowless
    Both interesting and easy to understand.
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Course Objectives

After completing this course, you will be able to:

  • Describe the ideals that the United States was founded upon, and discuss their lasting influence on the nation's politics.
  • Distinguish between civil rights and civil liberties, and explain how these rights and liberties are achieved through politics.
  • Explain how citizens participate in public affairs during elections and through intermediaries such as political parties, interest groups, and the media.
  • Discuss the ways Americans think politically, and describe the effect their opinions have on government.
  • Describe the division of political power among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government.
  • Debate the proper relationship between the people and the government.
  • Explain how the policies of the United States reflect the nature of its political system and its people, and why they tend to be piecemeal and reactive.
  • Compare and contrast the structures of the federal, state, and local governments.

Topic

Title

Subtopics

Objectives

1

American Political Culture

  • Americas Core Political Ideals
  • The Social Contract
  • The Rules of American Politics
  • Theories of Power
  • List and discuss Americas three core political ideals.
  • Describe the evolution of the social contract, and explain why all members within a society must agree with its terms.
  • Analyze how democracy, constitutionalism, and capitalism establish a political process that is intended to promote self-government, defend individual rights, and protect property.
  • Compare and contrast the four theories of power in America: majoritarianism, pluralism, elitism, and bureaucratic rule.

2

Constitutional Democracy

  • Negotiating Toward a Constitution
  • Checks and Balances
  • The Bill of Rights
  • Democracy and Republic
  • Discuss how the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation helped shape the Constitution.
  • Compare and contrast the Virginia and New Jersey plans, and explain how they led to the Great Compromise.
  • Analyze how the system of checks and balances controls the power of government.
  • Examine the Bill of Rights and explain why it is important to Americans liberty.

3

Federalism

  • National and State Sovereignty
  • National and State Powers
  • The History of Federalism
  • Federalism and the Modern State
  • Define federalism and describe the bargaining process at the Philadelphia Convention resulting in its inception.
  • Compare and contrast the powers of the federal and state governments.
  • Examine turning points in federalism.
  • Discuss two reasons why the national governments authority increased dramatically in the twentieth century.

4

Civil Liberties

  • Free Speech and Freedom of the Press
  • Libel and Obscenity
  • The Free-Exercise and Establishment Clauses
  • Abortion and Privacy Rights
  • Defendants Rights and Habeas Corpus
  • Terrorism and Civil Liberties
  • Discuss key Supreme Court decisions involving free speech and freedom of the press.
  • Evaluate the standards that govern libel and obscenity.
  • Define the separation of church and state.
  • Discuss key Supreme Court decisions involving abortion and privacy rights.
  • Define procedural due process and habeas corpus.
  • Discuss the four constitutional amendments that contain specific procedural protections for the accused, and explain what protections each provides.
  • Describe the powers given to the U.S. government by the Patriot Act, and explain which rights it curtails.

5

Civil Rights

  • Brown v. Board of Education and the Civil Rights Act
  • Womens Right to Vote
  • Equal Protection: The Fourteenth Amendment
  • Social Movements
  • Analyze the results of the Brown decision and the Civil Rights Act.
  • Discuss how African-Americans and women gained the right to vote.
  • Distinguish among reasonable basis, strict scrutiny, and intermediate scrutiny tests.
  • Describe how social movements interact with government to produce changes over time in civil rights.

6

Public Opinion and Mass Media

  • Does Public Opinion Matter?
  • Where Did You Get Your Political Beliefs?
  • How Has the Internet Changed Mass Media?
  • The Press and Democracy: Friends or Foes?
  • Describe how the publics disinterest in political information and lack of knowledge about the political world restricts the role it can play in policy formation.
  • Define and discuss public opinion and public opinion polls.
  • Test whether you are liberal or conservative, and examine where your political beliefs come from.
  • Describe how the Internet has changed the traditional news media's control of political information.
  • Examine the four roles of the media, and explain the importance of each to a democratic society.

7

Voting and Party Systems

  • The Vanishing Voter
  • Why Your Vote Counts
  • Are Parties Obsolete?
  • Examine the reasons for low voter turnout and what is being done to promote awareness of and participation in the electoral process.
  • Differentiate between prospective voting and retrospective voting, and explain how voting can strengthen democracy.
  • Examine reasons for the weakening of American party organizations and the decline in their influence, as compared to the powerful role of parties in European politics.

8

Interest Groups

  • Are Interest Groups Engines or Corrupters of Democracy?
  • The Free Rider Problem
  • Inside and Outside Lobbying
  • Pros and Cons of Pluralism
  • Discuss whether interest groups are engines or corrupters of democracy.
  • Explain the free-rider problem, and discuss strategies employed by interest groups to surmount it.
  • Compare and contrast the tactics used in inside and outside lobbying, and examine how political action committees (PACs) influence politics.
  • Compare and contrast pluralism and interest-group liberalism.

9

Getting Elected to Congress

  • Why We Re-elect Incumbents
  • Why Incumbents Sometimes Lose
  • Redistricting
  • Analyze why incumbents are typically reelected and how incumbency weakens democracy.
  • Examine the reasons why incumbents sometimes lose.
  • Examine redistricting and how it affects Congressional elections.

10

Congressional Governance

  • Party Leaders
  • Committees
  • How a Bill Becomes a Law
  • What Does Congress Do?
  • Compare and contrast the roles and responsibilities of Senate leaders and House of Representatives leaders.
  • Discuss the principal-agent model of congressional leadership, and explain how leadership in the modern Congress has changed.
  • Explain the role of the congressional committee system, discuss congressional committee makeup and assignments, and describe the jurisdiction of congressional committees.
  • Explain the duties of the committee chair, and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the seniority system.
  • Create a flowchart that shows how a bill becomes law.
  • Differentiate between cloture and filibuster, and describe a rider.
  • Explain the three major policy-making functions of Congress, and analyze to what degree these roles are complementary, competitive, or mutually exclusive.

11

The Presidency and the Bureaucracy

  • What Does the President Do?
  • The Electoral College
  • What Does the Cabinet Do?
  • How Are Cabinet Members Held Accountable?
  • Explain the four authoritative roles that the Constitution grants to the president, and explain how foreign and domestic policy events have shaped the development of presidential power.
  • Discuss the pros and cons of the electoral college.
  • Define the ways cabinet agencies differ from each other and from independent agencies.
  • Explain how the president can hold the bureaucracy accountable for its actions.

12

The Judiciary

  • The Judiciary System
  • Landmark Cases
  • Federal Court Appointees
  • Judicial Restraint and Activism
  • Discuss the functions of the Supreme Court, courts of appeals, and district courts.
  • Distinguish between original and appellate jurisdiction, and examine the five types of Supreme Court opinions.
  • Define landmark cases that expanded the power of the courts.
  • Explain the criteria the president uses when selecting Supreme Court nominees, and identify factors that make it more likely nominees will be rejected by the Senate.
  • Compare and contrast judicial restraint and judicial activism.

13

Public Policy

  • Fiscal Policy
  • Monetary Policy
  • Social Welfare Policy
  • Foreign and Defense Policy
  • Differentiate between supply-side and demand-side economics, and explain when each should be used.
  • Examine how taxes are determined and whether we should have a deficit.
  • Examine how the Federal Reserve System controls monetary policy.
  • Analyze individual-benefit programs, and explain which programs have public support and why.
  • Trace the shift of U.S. foreign and defense policy, from dealing with communism to fighting terrorism.

14

State and Local Politics

  • State Governments
  • State and Local Governments
  • Types of Local Government
  • Explain the structure of state governments.
  • Describe the relationship between state and local governments.
  • List and discuss some of the major types of local government.

15

Review

  • Review
  • Complete a review of key content covered in this course.

There are no prerequisites for this course.

Required Textbook: This course has assigned reading.

Title: We the People eTextbook

ISBN: 9780078024795

Our Price: $129.56

Assigned reading material as part of taking this online course.
bookshelfWith every purchase of an eTextbook through StraighterLine, students have access to their texts via the Bookshelf App which syncs to their course, provides offline access for studying on the go, and more.
-OR-
book cover

This comprehensive text is known for its exciting writing style and its positive, forward-looking presentation of the latest developments in scholarship and real-life politics. Through the use of engaging narrative, The American Democracy weaves together theory, information, and examples in ways that highlight key points, make them easy to understand, and capture readers' interest.

Patterson, Thomas E. We the People, 11th edition. McGraw-Hill, 2014. ISBN 9780078024795.

StraighterLine provides a percentage score and letter grade for each course. A passing percentage is 70% or higher.

If you have chosen a Partner College to award credit for this course, your final grade will be based upon that college's grading scale. Only passing scores will be considered by Partner Colleges for an award of credit.

There are a total of 1000 points in the course.

Topic

Assessment

Points Available

3

Graded Exam #1

125

7

Graded Exam #2

125

Cumulative Graded Midterm Exam

250

10

Graded Exam #3

125

14

Graded Exam #4

125

15

Cumulative Graded Final Exam

250

Total

1000


You are required to take an online proctored final exam in order to be eligible for transfer credit. You can take your proctored final exam at home or anywhere you have access to a webcam with a microphone and a reliable, high-speed internet connection. For additional questions, please refer to the FAQ on Online Proctoring or contact your student advisors at 877-787-8375.

"We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union…" These are the first words of the United States Constitution, the country’s most important government document. What did the framers of this document envision as a "more perfect union?" In this course, you will explore the result of their vision—the American government. You will discover how the founders created a democracy based upon the ideals of liberty, equality, and self-government. You will explore how the government is structured and how it operates, and you will examine the three branches of government—legislative, executive, and judicial—that make up the system of checks and balances. You will find that although the Constitution in principle grants certain rights and liberties to the people, many groups have not been allowed those rights in practice and have had to fight for them. But as you will discover, the very nature of the United States government means that the people have a voice, and that the Constitution is a living document, because it can be adapted and amended to change with the times.

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