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POLS 160 Introduction to American Political Culture • 5 Cr.


Examines the structures and systems of American politics using a multidisciplinary approach. Students analyze the development of political culture and its evolution through time. Same as AMST 160. Either POLS 160 or AMST 160 may be taken for credit, not both.


After completing this class, students should be able to:

  • Identify methodological alternatives as presented by different disciplines.
  • Recognize and evaluate underlying assumptions presented by different perspectives and authors of literature.
  • Compare and contrast information, both qualitative and quantitative.
  • Assess the accuracy and completeness of information presented.
  • Identify and understand inherent dilemmas and paradoxes.
  • Develop inferential skills to integrate
  • Develop analytic skills to frame real-life experiences within conceptual constructs.
  • Formulate an understanding of antecedents which lead to cause and effect relationships
  • Develop skills to formulate the kinds of questions which lead to creating a more rather than less comprehensive analytical frameworks for interpreting information.
  • Introduction
    • Give a general definition of what culture is and its relationship to politics and decision-making processes.
    • Define what is political culture and how it is related and shaped by culture in general.
    • Identify how political culture is represented, interpreted, and influenced by various disciplines (i.e., political science, literature, history, anthropology, sociology, economics, and communications).
    • Identify how a given political culture actualizes itself through the creation of appropriate organizations and processes.
  • Indicators of Culture
    • Explain the difference and interdependence between qualitative and quantitative data.
    • Explain and discuss alternative assumptions which lead towards different methodological approaches for collecting and interpreting information.
    • Understand how different indicators will lead to different interpretations of what political culture is and what functions and dysfunctions are served by culture.
    • Compare and contrast different methodological approaches in terms of what kind of information can be attained.
  • The Oriains and Evolution of American Political Thinking
    • Identify those particular vernacular political cultures (East England Puritan, South England Royalist-Anglican, Central English-Highland Quaker, North and West England Scotch-Irish, German Mennonite, Pietist, and Native American) that were the first and most formative shapers of American political culture.
    • Identify the major philosophers' contributions of the enlightenment to the formation of American political culture.
    • Identify the interplay between vernacular and philosophical political culture values and how they shaped each other.
    • Identify the various Native American vernacular political cultures and the interplay between these cultures and the vernacular immigrant political cultures.
    • Identify the plantation political culture and the African cultural input into the formation of the American political culture, and Afro-American political culture.
    • Identify the major immigrant groups to America (German, Irish, Polish, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Southeast Asian, Spanish), their political cultural heritage and their impact on American political culture.
    • Identify and understand that American political culture from its very beginning was an amalgam of many vernacular political cultures, sometimes supportive of, and other times contradictory to, each other.
  • Culture as a Source of Duress and Enlightenment
    • Be able to recognize the constraints cultural values can impose upon a society as well as the way in which cultural values also constrain ambiguity.
    • Be able to discuss the ways in which cultural values continually create a foundation for understanding one's life experiences as well as facilitate social change.
      • Begin to identify the inherent paradoxes and dilemmas as well as the potential for collective growth and development when analyzing cultural traditions and norms.
      • Begin to develop a conceptual understanding of how population indicators such as generation, migration, immigration, and age influence the expression and transmission of culture.
    • The Use of Symbols and Myths to Educate Perpetuate and Alter Cultural Perspectives
    • Define and interpret the relationship between symbols and myths and how they hold different meanings for different individuals, groups, and organizations.
    • Identify different agents of socialization and how this affects the interpretation of symbols and utilization of myths.
    • Understand and explain how culture comes to be understood and sustained in terms of symbols and myths.
    • Discuss the ways in which symbols and myths become utilized to evoke collective emotional responses to events and situations.
    • Discuss and explain why symbols are important tools for integrating effectual experiences with thoughts about those experiences as well as the constraints symbols can impose upon construct building.
  • Constructing and Reconstructing the "American" Identify
    • Discuss and explain the ways in which the portrayal of culture through different forms of media can influence the acceptability of political cultural values.
    • Identify trends among different groups for integrating and adapting to changing political cultural values.
    • Understand the antecedents and variables which influence the formation and identification with a political cultural identity.
    • Explain different perspectives held by different groups about what their "American" identity embodies and the linkage to political values.
    • Discuss and explain how linkages across different cultures can help hold society together but also alters the meaning of political culture for individuals and groups.
    • Identify the ways in which the functions and meaning of social culture can change over time and how this influences the political culture.
  • Concerns on the Political Agenda as Indicative of Cultural Ambiguities
    • Identify the ways in which political cultural values influence forms of political expression.
    • Identify the ways in which political cultural differences affect political decision-making processes.
    • Identify and explain the functions and dysfunctions of politics and political participation in terms of political cultural diversity.
    • Understand and explain how different methodological approaches to studying cultural influences shape priorities on the public agenda.
    • Understand and explain the relationship between what political culture means to groups and individuals and how politics becomes a forum for the expression of culture.
    • Speculate about what functions are served by political culture and its relationship to political issues and concerns.



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