AP American Government


This course is not exactly what the title entails. Most students think of American politics to be strictly about institutions and complicated legal cases. I take a rather different approach that will hopefully enlighten students to issues that are far more pressing. We first start off with a mini  course in history starting from 1492. In a sense, I combine both history and politics because in my view they are inextricable.

Choosing a text that will inform and be of interest to students is no easy task. After a long time of course planning, I decided to use a different text for the 2015 academic year. I decided on two core texts:

  1. A People’s History of the United States (link to the book) by Howard Zinn (author’s website)
  2. American Government: Institutions and Policies by Wilson, Dilulio, & Bose (study guide).

The first text by Howard Zinn is used to teach students that the joyful stories of the “founding fathers” and other heroes praised in traditional texts are based on myths. Instead, this text outlines the real struggle of people against their rulers in America, starting with the Natives that were there to begin with. More broadly, I use this text to provide a critical perspective on American politics and history.

The second text by Wilson et al presents a more common approach to American politics. I want students to be able to gain various perspectives so that they can learn to evaluate information being given to them.



Starting this semester I have decided to remove tests from the evaluation process due to redundancy. We already have a midterm, finals, and Advance Placement tests, so no need for any more.

Students will be evaluated based on the following criteria:

  1. APA Citation assignment (10%)
  2. Position Paper: Federalist vs Anti-Federalist (20%)
  3. Position Paper: Citizens United (20%)

APA Citation Assignment: APA Citation US GOV

I have no doubt in my mind that this is one of the most important assignments you will complete this semester. Learning how to cite sources properly is absolutely essential for success in academia. Failure to give credit to other sources, even by accident, is a serious academic offense which can possibly get you kicked out of school.

There are several different styles of citations/referencing (think of it as different versions of the same process) that are used in academia. I focus primarily on the style according to the American Psychological Association.

Learning objectives: paraphrasing, in-text citations, reference page and document format.



http://supp.apa.org/style/PM6E-Corrected-Sample-Papers.pdf  (sample essays)


These two videos show in further detail how to set up an essay in APA format. If you have any questions feel free to ask me in class.


As for the topic – Federalist vs Anti-Federalist was one of the first official debates on the size of government. In recent years you often hear of big government versus small government. Keep in mind the ruling class on the Federalist side saw Shay’s rebellion as an opportunity to consolidate their power whereas the anti-Federalist were worried that the thirteen colonies would not agree to a centralized authority.


The lesson of the first video (your left) is to give some brief background to what we talked about in class of Federalist and Anti Federalist. The second video is from the movie Goodwill Hunting – a famous scene about a debate in American history, but more importantly about academic integrity. Being original is far better than receiving a good grade. Be warned that plagiarism will be strictly penalized. If you have any questions about it than please ask me. When in doubt, cite!


Howard Zinn: A People’s History of the United States, Chapters 1-5. 

The purpose of reading this text is to provide students a historical background to the development of the American Constitution. The colonies were not a unified territory nor was there a sense of American identity. In fact, citizens in the British Empire looked down upon the colonialists as being rather backward and uncivilized. At one point, it was a  form of punishment to send poor whites and “beggars” to send them to the New World where they would work as white servants. For the midterm you are responsible for all 5 chapters including the documents and videos below:

United States Map: You are responsible for knowing where each of the 13 colonies are located + Missouri + Border States. US MAP


The concept of federalism was invented in the 18th/19th century and continued to evolve until this day. At the time of the Constitutional Convention (1789), the term Federalism had little meaning, often being used as a synonymous with a confederation. However, the ruling class divided among themselves over who should get power decided to create a union with two levels of governance whereby each level has their own sovereign powers. This created a system of dual federalism (powers reserved for the states (10th Amendment) and delegated powers for the national government. In this section, we will go over the different systems of government (unitary, federal, confederal), reserved powers, delegated powers, shared powers, dual federalism, nullification, anti-federalist vs federalist debate, the role of the Supreme Court (McCulloch v Maryland)  and other important concepts.


Get power point for the text Chapter 3 – Federalism wilson_11e_sg_ch03

Get the Study guide for the text Federalism Chapter 3

Federalist Paper 10 (Audio version click here)

Position Essay Instructions Position Essay Instructions

Supplementary Videos