Syllabi for the Fall Semester

Written on August 22, 2016

Here are the links to my syllabi for the semester. I’m teaching three courses.

Introduction to American Politics

The into to American politics course uses Keeping the Republic by Barbour and Wright. I didn’t assign a reader but do assign extra readings occasionally. The class is a standard three midterm + final set up however I’m also asking them to write a critical book review type assignment based on one of three public policy books:

  • Michelle Alexander (2012). The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. New York, New York: The New Press
  • Kathryn J Edin and H Luke Shaefer (2015). 2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America. Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin
  • Andrea Louise Campbell (2014). Trapped in America’s Safety Net: One Family’s Struggle. Chicago Studies in American Politics. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press

Though this is the first time I’ve taught intro, I would hope to get to a point where I could do it without a textbook. That is, every week has different papers, articles, and book chapters in lieu of a textbook chapter.

Introduction to Political Methods

It seems to me that most political methods courses fall generally into two camps. There is one camp that focuses largely on philosophy of science stuff and how to do research from a philosophical stand point. The other side runs methods like a baby stats type course, with heavy emphasis on how to do quant analysis in some stat package.

I think there is a third way that is sometimes used as well, which is the sometimes uneasy combo of the two. I’m running methods this way (which is in the tradition of how it has been run the last few times at UMM). The first two thirds of the class focus on how to ask good questions, how to write a lit review, etc.

The last third of the class focuses on doing quant analysis in R. I’m assigning parts of Political Analysis Using R. The University has access to a bunch of Springer books “freely” so it saves the students the cost of having to get a Stata book and they get introduced to a free program that looks good on resumes. Sounds good to me!

Voting Behavior and Political Participation

This is a course that was designed as a general introduction to political behavior and is generally run during election years. My twist on it focuses more on the political participation aspect of the title. The first third deals with election type things and “voting behavior.” So we cover partisanship, the media, priming and framing, electoral rules, etc.

The second third of the course is concerned with mass political action. It focuses on group changes, protests, and social capital.

The final third of the course, which I think is a unique addition, deals with the link between public policy and political participation. Often times called policy feedback, this third focuses on how policies can construct citizens, create constituencies, and impact political participation.

One challenge of this course is that it is not text book based at all. Hopefully there is not too much reading towards the end.