American Government

I.     Course Prefix/Number: PSC 101

       Course Name: American Government

       Credits: 3 (3 lecture; 0 lab)

II.    Prerequisite


III.   Course (Catalog) Description

Course presents philosophical principles, governmental machinery and political processes of the federal government. Content includes political culture, the Constitution, civil liberties and civil rights, government institutions, political parties and interest groups, public opinion, and public policy decision-making. Successful completion of this course satisfies the Illinois State Constitution Examination requirement. IAI S5 900

IV.   Learning Objectives

  1. Identify American democratic principles and procedures, and the ways in which these are embodied in the U.S. Constitution.
  2. Explain the process by which citizens develop their political values, and how these get expressed in public opinion, party politics, and interest group activity.
  3. Analyze the organization of the national government, including the interrelationships between and among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches.
  4. Evaluate the relationship between the national government and the states, with an emphasis on Illinois government and the Illinois Constitution.
  5. Evaluate and interpret the nature of public policy issues, including civil liberties.

V.    Academic Integrity and Student Conduct

Students and employees at Oakton Community College are required to demonstrate academic integrity and follow Oakton's Code of Academic Conduct. This code prohibits:

• cheating,
• plagiarism (turning in work not written by you, or lacking proper citation),
• falsification and fabrication (lying or distorting the truth),
• helping others to cheat,
• unauthorized changes on official documents,
• pretending to be someone else or having someone else pretend to be you,
• making or accepting bribes, special favors, or threats, and
• any other behavior that violates academic integrity.

There are serious consequences to violations of the academic integrity policy. Oakton's policies and procedures provide students a fair hearing if a complaint is made against you. If you are found to have violated the policy, the minimum penalty is failure on the assignment and, a disciplinary record will be established and kept on file in the office of the Vice President for Student Affairs for a period of 3 years.

Please review the Code of Academic Conduct and the Code of Student Conduct, both located online at

VI.   Sequence of Topics

In order to accomplish this, the course will follow this outline of topics:

  1. The Democratic Values and the Constitution
    1. The basic values of democracy as expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, as well as in the writings of the Founding Fathers.
    2. The background of the Constitution.
    3. The grants of power contained in the Constitution.
    4. The limitations placed on the federal government by the Constitution: the Bill of Rights.
    5. Federalism
    6. The U.S. and Illinois constitutions compared.
  2. Political Parties and Voting
    1. The nature of American political parties: historical development, traditional functions, current structure, strengths, and weaknesses.
    2. Political Socialization: the origins of party, issue, and candidate orientation.
    3. The factors that influence voting behavior.
    4. The nature of campaigning: styles, strategies, impact, etc., and how these have changed over time.
    5. Interest groups and their involvement in the electoral and policy process.
  3. Congress
    1. The functions of Congress.
    2. The distribution of power in Congress: seniority, leadership positions, the committee system, voting.
    3. The strengths and weaknesses of Congress.
  4. The Presidency and the Bureaucracy
    1. The constitutional and accrued powers of the President.
    2. Sources of presidential power: formal and informal.
    3. The bureaucracy: an arm of the president.
    4. The bureaucracy: an independent center of power.
    5. The Executive Office of the President.
    6. The power of the President in relation to the power of the Congress.
  5. The Courts
    1. Law in a democracy.
    2. The origins and uses of judicial review.
    3. The structure and functions of the judiciary.
    4. Politics and the courts.
    5. Civil Liberties.

VII.  Methods of Instruction

Classes will include a variety of instructional methods such as: lectures, in class discussions, group activities, document and film analysis, and the use of new technologies.
Course may be taught as face-to-face, hybrid or online course.

VIII. Course Practices Required

Students will be required to:
  1. Read a standard textbook and research materials.
  2. Write outside of class the equivalent of 12-14 double-spaced typed pages in the form of a term paper, summaries of journal articles, short research papers, and/or other kinds of writing.
  3. Participate in in-class and out-of-class activities.

IX.   Instructional Materials

Note: Current textbook information for each course and section is available on Oakton's Schedule of Classes.

The most current editions of the following texts are being used:

Baker, Pomper, Williams, American Government
Bardes, Shelly, Schmidt, American Government and Politics Today
Burns, Peltason, and Cronin., Government By The People

O’Connor, American Government
Wilson, American Government

Supplementary readings may also be assigned.  Currently being used are:
Dushkin, Annual Editions: American Government.
Levine, Point‑Counterpoint
Rourke, Taking Sides

X.    Methods of Evaluating Student Progress

At least two exams will be given in addition to other required papers and assignments.

Students will also be evaluated on a combination of written assignments and in- and out-of- class assignments.

XI.   Other Course Information

Support Services: Tutoring is available in the Learning Center.

Important Dates: *

XX/XX:    Last day to withdraw and have course dropped from record
XX/XX:    Last day to change to Audit
XX/XX:    Last day for students to submit materials to make up incomplete from the previous semester
XX/XX:    Last day to withdraw from classes with a "W"

*These dates differ for each semester. You'll find the correct dates on the Academic Calendar.

If you have a documented learning, psychological, or physical disability you may be entitled to reasonable academic accommodations or services. To request accommodations or services, contact the Access and Disability Resource Center at the Des Plaines or Skokie campus. All students are expected to fulfill essential course requirements. The College will not waive any essential skill or requirement of a course or degree program.

Oakton Community College is committed to maintaining a campus environment emphasizing the dignity and worth of all members of the community, and complies with all federal and state Title IX requirements.

Resources and support for
  • pregnancy-related and parenting accommodations; and
  • victims of sexual misconduct
can be found at

Resources and support for LGBTQ+ students can be found at

Electronic video and/or audio recording is not permitted during class unless the student obtains written permission from the instructor. In cases where recordings are allowed, such content is restricted to personal use only. Any distribution of such recordings is strictly prohibited. Personal use is defined as use by an individual student for the purpose of studying or completing course assignments.

For students who have been approved for audio and/or video recording of lectures and other classroom activities as a reasonable accommodation by Oakton’s Access Disabilities Resource Center (ADRC), applicable federal law requires instructors to permit those recordings. Such recordings are also limited to personal use. Any distribution of such recordings is strictly prohibited.

Violation of this policy will result in disciplinary action through the Code of Student Conduct.