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POSC 100 American Government, Winter 2019, Paper Assignment

This paper asks you to focus on a module (or two) in the course and write an answer to a prompt about that module. Following these general instructions is a list of essay questions; choose one of these questions to write. Read the questions carefully and construct your answer according to the separate instructions for each question. Make sure that when relevant, you connect your answer to material addressed in this course, as well as that you answer every part of the question asked.

Your answer should aim for 3-5 pages and must be written in 12-point Times New Roman font (or Times font for Macs), double-spaced, with normal (default margins). You must submit your answer electronically through Turnitin; there will be a link for doing so in the Major Assignments section of our Titanium page.

The questions are designed to be answered using course materials; you are not required to conduct outside research for this paper. If you do include such material (quotes, stats, etc.), please cite it, using any standard citation method and a works cited or references page following the main text. Plagiarism will not be tolerated—if Turnitin determines that you have copied material from other sources without attribution, you may fail the assignment or the course, at my discretion.

Please write the number of the question you have chosen on the title of your submission (when you upload).

Your paper must be uploaded between Friday, January 4th and Monday, January 14th. No late papers will be accepted without prior approval from the professor.

Prompts (choose one)

  1. Module 1: The Founders purposefully designed a government that would not depend on virtuous leaders or virtuous citizens to survive, relying on checks and balances, etc.

However, many people—both then and today—believed that the American experiment still requires some type of public virtue to succeed. Without an agreement on values, this argument goes, structural fixes such as checks and balances are not enough to create prosperity or happiness. Do you agree with this viewpoint?

If not, why not? Why do you think a focus on common values or virtue is misguided?

If so, what sort of values or virtue does the country need? Can we develop a consensus on values without sacrificing freedom?

  1. Module 3: One enduring divide in American politics is the degree to which states or the federal government should dictate policy.

Choose a political issue where 1) you care about the outcome and 2) there is some meaningful disagreement over whether policy decisions should be controlled by the states or the federal government.

Explain why you think either the federal government or the states should primarily be charge of the issue you raise. Openly weigh the benefits and drawbacks of the choice you make when defending your decision.

  1. Modules 2 and 7: “It is extremely difficult to amend the U.S. Constitution—so much so that the Supreme Court sometimes ‘updates’ the Constitution using judicial review.

We can fix this problem—and return the Court to its proper place in American life—by making it easier to amend the Constitution. Ireland, for example, recently legalized abortion through a popular referendum, where a majority of the country voted to change their own basic law. California has a similar process which allows for change and experimentation. The United States should adopt a national referendum process, where the Constitution would be amended if a proposal 1) passes the House, 2) passes the Senate, 3) receives 50% or more of the popular vote.”

Respond to this proposal. Whether you support or oppose it (or a mixture of the two), discuss both the merits of the proposal and its impact on the Supreme Court.

  1. Module 9: Voter turnout in the United States remains low compared to other industrialized nations. Setting aside the debate over whether increased voter turnout is a positive good, how might voter turnout be improved?

Assume that you work for a firm which has been hired to identify changes—institutional, policy, educational, and so on—that might lead to higher voter turnout, either immediately or over time. Focus on two or three specific changes, identifying why you support these changes over others, and assessing the chances that your changes might be implemented by voters, policymakers, or other appropriate actors.


Your answers will be graded according under the following criteria:

Professionalism and presentation (10 points): does your submission look professional? Are there no obvious typographical errors or mistakes? Is the section properly formatted? Does it avoid weird line breaks, spacing, or other errors?

10: Model answer. Free of errors, professional looking

9: Above standard. Minor errors, still profession

8.5: At standard. Some errors, but over acceptable quality.

7.7: Below standard. Too many errors and problems. Gives a negative impression and tells the reader the author didn’t do their job in making it look good.

7: Well below standard. Degree or level of errors detract from readability

5 or below: Unacceptable. Serious or critical presentation errors that makes it hard to follow the argument or goal of the section; shows a blatant disregard for the assignment and the reader.

Composition and organization (20 points): Have you written in clear and concise language? Are your sentences free of awkward clauses and bloated phrases? Does your submission show clear signs of editing beyond just running the spell-checker?

Does your argument follow a natural path from A to B? Do your paragraphs have a main idea that is easy to identify? Do you use transitions between paragraphs when appropriate? Have you made sure to omit tangents or points isolated from your main argument?

19-20: Model answer. Well-edited, well-organized, pleasure to read.

18: Above standard. Generally well-written and organized, but includes sufficient problems that prevent it from being placed in the highest category.

16-17: At standard. Some problems in composition and/or organization, but adequate given nature of assignment and course.

15: Below standard. Several mistakes, clear problems with either composition or organization, but still possesses some positive qualities.

14: Well below standard. Far too many mistakes or composition problems for a college essay; really problems with editing or flow. Still readable.

13 or below: Unacceptable. Serious or critical composition and organizational errors that make it difficult to follow the argument, or show a blatant disregard for the assignment through an obvious of lack editing and professionalism.

Class material (2o points): does your paper utilize material from the course?

19-20: Model answer. Paper masterfully works in relevant material into your argument, and shows strong evidence of mastery of the material.

18: Above standard. The paper falls short in some way from the above description, either in inadequate integration or some misunderstanding of the material cited.

16-17: At standard. Includes appropriate course material, given the nature of the assignment.

15: Below standard. Minimal effort to integrate class material. Some moderate to serious mistakes in use of the material cited.

14: Well below standard. Serious omissions, or serious mistakes in how material is used.

13 or below: Unacceptable. No real evidence of using class material in argument.

Assignment requirements and argument (50 points): This section of the rubric varies, depending on what question you choose, and what position you take. Generally, though, this grade depends on 1) the strength, coherence, and persuasiveness of your argument 2) your ability to anticipate and address problems or counterarguments without overly weakening your own claims.

46-50: Model answer.

44-45: Above standard.

42-43: At standard.

38-41: Below standard.

34-37: Well below standard.

33 or below: Unacceptable

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