Political Science | American Political Controversies
Y100 | 3416 | Reiners


	First 10 weeks only.
	Few things divide people more than politics; one need only
look back to the events of this past November to see that.  Few
things are also as misunderstood as politics.  For a great many
people, when they think about politics they picture far off
Washington politicians either fighting amongst each other or doing
anything and everything to get reelected.  In part, this is caused by
the varied and conflicting messages that the media constantly throw
our way.  Suffice it to say, this picture of politics is not true, or
at least it is not the whole truth.  But this lack of understanding
among the public often tends to increase their suspicions and
cynicism about our political system, and sometimes leaves them
indifferent about important political issues.
	In this course, we are going to shed some light on how and
why our political system functions the way it does, and on some of
the controversial issues that make political life so contentious in
this country.  In particular, we will focus on four issues; campaign
finance reform, welfare policy, criminal justice, and education
reform.  We will also follow current events closely, and touch upon
other controversial issues as they inevitably arise.
	I think it also instructive to tell you what we are NOT going
to do in this course.  First, we are not going to somehow resolve
these contentious political issues.  This class is more about asking
interesting questions than coming up with definitive answers.  That
does not mean students cannot take a particular side on an issue.
Everyone has, or at least should have, an opinion about the issues we
will be discussing in this course, and everyone’s opinion deserves
some consideration.  I believe that some opinions, however, deserve
more consideration than others.  Which ones you ask?  Namely,
opinions that are backed by a comprehensive understanding of the
particular issue.  This means that before you can sensibly discuss an
issue, you need to gather as much information as you can about it and
then consider it from all sides.  We will also not be trying to
completely eliminate whatever suspicions or cynicism you might have
about politics and our political system.  As will likely soon become
evident, I think a nice dose of cynicism about politics is both
healthy and necessary.  You, of course, can disagree.  But to my
mind, its not whether you are cynical or not, its whether you are
well-informed.  Hopefully, after this course is over you will have
absorbed plenty of new information with which to (re)formulate your
own opinions about politics and about certain political issues.  For
some people, a better understanding of these issues might make them
less cynical; for others it might make them more.