Sam Houston   GOVT 2306

    Associate Professor of Government

    SPRING 2011
     Section:         17721-015
     Time:             MW 10:30 - 11:50 am
     Location:       Pinnacle
     Room:           403
     Session:         January 18 - May 15
     Office Hours: MW 10:20-10:30, 11:50-12:00, & 1:20-2:00
                         TTh 10:25-10:35, 11:50-12:00, 1:15-2:50 & 4:05-4:15
                          or by appointment 
     Office:           PIN 407
     Textbook:     Texas Politics Today,
                          Fourteenth Edition, 2009
                          ISBN 978-0495570257

Sam Houston (1793-1863)

Washington is the only lunatic asylum in the world run by its own immates.
Governor and US Senator W. Lee "Pappy" O'Daniel

The purpose of the course is to acquaint the student with Texas state and local government. The student will be introduced to: (a) a framework for analyzing Texas politics and government; (b) the constitutional basis for Texas government; (c) the processes of Texas politics and government; (d) the institutions of Texas politics and government; and (e) policies of Texas government. Specific behavioral objectives will accompany each unit of instruction.

Additionally it is hoped that students will gain: an understanding of federalism; an awareness of the ways in which government affects/is affected by its citizens; political thinkning as part of the process of becoming a more effective citizen; critical thinking skills; and a better understanding of the theoretical nature of government.

The course is divided up into four parts.  Part 1 will provide an overview of Texas history, the Texas Constitution, and federalism.

In Part  2 we will look at institutional elements of policy generation and implementation as well as elections and parties.

Finally, in Part 3 we will look at the institutions of the Texas government, namely the Congress, the Governor, and the Judiciary.

While this is primarily a lecture course, the class may also include videos, transparencies, role-playing simulations, internet activities, writing assignments, and classroom discussions.  Students must attend and participate regularly.

The American dream is not dead. It is gasping for breath, but it is not dead.
Barbara Jordan

Each ACC campus offers support services for students with documented physical or psychological disabilities.  Students with disabilities must request reasonable accommodations through the Office for Students with Disabilities on the campus where they expect to take the majority of their classes.  Students are encouraged to do this three weeks before the start of the semester.
Do NOT ever message or text the professor using Facebook or his personal cell phone for questions related to the class.  You should view Facebook and the personal cell as means of contacting the professor for Twelfth Revolution club business, personal, or political activism only.
Each student is expected to attend and participate in each class meeting and to complete the assigned reading PRIOR to each class.  Although class attendance is not a direct component of the final grade, absences do limit the student’s opportunity to participate fully in class activities and will almost certainly impact the student’s final grade.  Should it be necessary to miss a class a student should contact other class members for copies of the notes amd materials covered in that class.  Attendance is required on test days and on oral presentation days.  Should you miss a test day there will be no make up exams, instead your final grade will be based on the tests taken.  Should you miss two or more exams you should consider dropping the course rather than suffering a failing grade.

Cell phones and text-messaging devices must be turned off and should not be in evidence in the classroom unless you have prior approval from the instructor.  Late arrivals and early departures are disruptive so please be on time and plan to stay the entire period unless you have previously spoken to the instructor. Excessive tardiness or failure to follow class policies on cell phones may result in the student being dropped from the course.  Do NOT get up during class to throw something away. 

The professor reserves the right to withdraw (drop) anyone from the class for any reason.  This does not mean that you will automatically be withdrawn if you are failing or if you are not attending class.  If you wish to drop the course please make sure to do so yourself.  The instructor will not do it for you.  

If, for any reason, you decide to withdraw from the course you must complete the required forms in the Admissions and Records office.

No imcompletes will be given for any reason or circumstance. Plan on finishing the class and all class assignments on time. All late assignments will receive an 'F.' If it becomes clear that you will not be able to complete the course please consider dropping the course by the drop deadline.  Failure to complete the required coursework will likely result in an F grade.  

We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.
I hope to bring some of that discomfort of thought to the American people.

              John Anderson

Acts prohibited by the college for which discipline may be administered include scholastic dishonesty, including but not limited to cheating on an exam or quiz, plagiarizing, and unauthorized collaboration with another in preparing outside work.  Academic work submitted by students shall be the result of their thought, research, or self-expression.  Academic work is defined as, but not limited to tests, quizzes, whether taken electronically or on paper, projects, either individual or group; classroom presentations, and homework.

If a student commits any of these actions, I will seek disciplinary action in the form of an academic penalty, which will likely include a course grade of  ‘F’.

Look, I take this very seriously and it has a real simple solution.  If you want to include text from someone else feel free to cite the original author.  It will strengthen your argument and suggest that you have done research on the subject.  Otherwise, I am ruthless and will show no mercy when it comes to plagiarism.  Failure to comply with this rule is almost certain to cause you to fail the course.  

I am delighted to be here with you this evening, because after listening to George Bush all these years, I figured you needed to know what a real Texas accent sounds like.
Governor Ann Richards
1988 Democratic National Convention keynote address
Just as each student is expected to attend class, each student is also expected to participate in the class discussion.  This not only includes preparing for class and listening in class, but also includes asking questions, answering questions, providing examples, and expressing opinions.  This class will be much more educational (as well as interesting) in an atmosphere of active participation and lively exchange of ideas.  There will be numerous opportunities throughout the semester to use current events to explore and expand upon our understanding of the concepts we are studying.  As a result I also expect students to keep up with current events.  If you are not normally in the habit of doing, then so you must plan to begin looking at a reliable news source.  The BBC and Reuters are two examples of the sort.  

In any classroom situation that includes discussion and critical thinking, there are bound to be many differing viewpoints.  These differences enhance the learning experience and create an atmosphere where students and instructors alike will be encouraged to think and learn.  On sensitive and volatile topics, students may sometimes disagree not only with each other but also with the instructor.  It is expected that faculty and students will respect the views of others when expressed in classroom situations.

Each person has the right to express his or her opinion.  Our Bill of Rights not only guarantees us the right to express our opinions but also provides us the opportunity to learn from our fellow citizens as they express their opinions.
All our beliefs are being challenged now, and rightfully so – they're stupid.
Bill Hicks


Three exams will be given during this semester as noted on the Course Schedule.  In addition to this your grade will include a participation component and miscellaneous activities.  The exams will include both objective and essay questions.  Essays may be conducted as take-home exams due by the following class period or as in-class exams according to the professor's whim.  

There are NO make-up exams.  Should you miss an exam I will calculate your grade as if you took the 2nd and Final Exams, regardless of which exam that you missed.  In other words if you miss an exam the highest grade that you can receive for the class will be 880 points (an 88%).  If you miss two exams the highest grade that you can receive for the class will be a 64%.  Sometimes things come up in life that we cannot control.  The first exam can serve as a sort of insurance policy, so that you will not be completely lost should you miss a test.

Arrangements can be made to take the first and second exam in the Testing Center if the professor is informed of a need to miss the regularly scheduled exam prior to the exam date.  NO arrangement can take place on or after the date of the test.  Due to Testing Center policy and since I generate a new exam every semester, NO such arrangement can be made for the Final Exam.

It should also be noted that there seems to be a high learning curve on my exams.  It has been my experience that people tend to do poorly on the first exam even if they ultimately earn an ‘A’ in the class.  The first exam should be regarded as a lesson in learning how to take my exams. 

Writing assignments will be turned into (  Papers handed to the professor should be assumed lost and NO credit will be received for them.  Never treat a written assignment as a summarization.  You are to ask and answer some question of political significance.  Be creative, but also make sure to support your thesis and any claims made around it.    The class ID and enrollment passwords are listed below:

class ID: 3684478
enrollment password: houston

                                     POINTS TOWARDS
EXAM 1 100
PARTICIPATION                  _ _150

Final letter grades will be assigned after determining total points earned, as follows:

    Final  Grade Scale              Letter Grade    
          900 – 1100                         A    
           800 – 899                          B    
           700 – 799                          C    
           600 – 699                          D    
               0 – 599                          F    

Classroom participation is worth 150 points (one and a half letter grades).  There is no formal attendance grade, however, it will be difficult to participate in classroom discussions if you are not in attendance.  The best way to earn a high participation grade is to ask questions, answer questions, and contribute insights when appropriate.  This is NOT a license to be obnoxious.

The test may be conducted as an in class test or with an in class multiple-choice test with a take-home essay.  If an essay is assigned as take-home, that portion of the exam must be turned into (see above). 

There are five ways to make these maximum of 200 points (2 letter grades). 
1) Speaking Events: You can attend Austin Philosophy Forum, Pinnacle Student Political Science Conference, or Twelfth Revolution speaking events.  You cannot get credit for Twelfth Revolution business meetings.  If you go to these event to get credit you must bring back proof that you attended.  (15 poinnts each)

2) 60 Minutes: You can write an 600-900 word essay about a political topic from a single story from 60 Minutes  The exact episode and story from that episode is up to you.  However, since this essay MUST be political you will want to avoid writing about topics like Penelope Cruz as fun as that might be.  (30 points)

3) Frontline: You can write a 600-900 word essay about a political topic from a single story from Frontline  The exact episode and story from that episode is up to you.  However, since this essay MUST be political you will want to avoid writing about topics like Penelope Cruz as fun as that might be.  (30 points)

4) Fourth Annual Constitution Day Contest (60 points each)

5) Movie Reveiews: You can write 450 word film review for one of the following movies: (10-25 points each)
Last Man Standing: Politics, Texas Style (10)
Fog of War (10)
Incedent at Oglala (10)
Blade Runner (10)
Flags of Our Fathers (10)
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (10)
Lone Star (10)
Lawrence of Arabia (10)
No Country for Old Men (10)
There Will Be Blood (10)
Botany of Desire (10)
America Before Columbus (Nat Geo) (10)
Baraka (15)
Smartest Guys in the Room (15)
Eyes on the Prize (1987) (25)

For options 2-5 you mst turn in your work to (see instructions above).

1. Attend all class sessions; if you miss a class get copies of the handouts/notes from a classmate.
2. Do not miss tests.  It may be tempting to miss the first exam, but don’t.
3. Read the assigned material prior to each class session.
4. Study the materials; prepare for and take each exam as scheduled.
5. Complete and turn in all assignments as assigned and on time.  NO LATE ASSIGNMENTS WILL BE ACCEPTED FOR ANY REASON AFTER CLASS BEGINS ON THE DUE DATE.
6. Contact the instructor if, at any time, you feel your performance is not up to your standards.

1. Writing Ability
2. Reading Ability
3. Critical Thinking and Analytical Sills
4. Memorization

If you can master these four forces, then you can succeed in academia.  To the extent possible this class will attempt to assist in developing all four skills further.  However, it should be obvious that English classes are generally where the above skills (especailly the first two) are formally taught.  It is assumed that you have had English classes and that you will apply that skill set to all writing assignements.

The Republic of Texas

1/24, 1/26 What Came before

Chapter 1
1/31, 2/2, 1/31 An Overview of Texas History

Chapter 1
 2/2, 2/7 Constitution
Chapter 2
2/9, 2/14 Federalism
Chapter 2


Successful politicians are insecure and intimidated men. They advance politically only as they placate, appease, bribe, seduce, bamboozle or otherwise manage to manipulate the demanding and threatening elements in their constituencies
Walter Lippmann

The Façade
2/21, 2/23, 2/2 Elections

Chapter 3

Chapter 4
3/7, 3/9
The Bureaucracy
Chapter 9
3/14 & 3/16

3/21, 3/28, 3/30, 4/4
Public Policy

Chapters 12 and 13


If these observations be just, our government ought to secure the permanent interests of the country against innovation. Landholders ought to have a share in the government, to support these invaluable interests, and to balance and check the other. They ought to be so constituted as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority.

James Madison

The Machine
The Legislature
Chapter 6
4/13, 4/18
The Legislative Process
Chapter 7
4/25, 4/27
The Governor
Chapter 8
5/2, 5/4
The Judiciary
Chapter 10
Local Government

Chapter 14


I call him Governor Bush because that's the only political office he's ever held legally.
George Carlin

Barbara Jordan
Barbara Jordan (1936-1996)

The instructor reserves the right to modify any portion of the syllabus at any time.  The Course Schedule is meant as a guide; treat the rest as law.