Advanced Placement U.S. Government &

Comparative Politics

Mr. Durfey

Updated August 18, 2010

This is a year long course that prepares students to take both the A.P. U.S. Government test and the A.P. Comparative Politics test in May.  It fulfils the requirement for U.S. Government.


Content written in italics represent the A.P. Comparative Politics curriculum.



Learning Activities

Possible Assessments





Democratic theories

Elements of the Policymaking System

Articles of Confederation versus the Constitution of 1787

The ideological and philosophical underpinnings of the Constitution (Locke, Montesquieu, Hobbes)

The Madisonian Model

Constitutional compromises

Federalists versus Anti-federalists

Amending process

History and development of federalism

Fiscal federalism






Structure of legislative branch, including powers

Power of incumbency

Congressional Committees





Evaluate the four democratic theories

Identify the parts of the policymaking system

Identify elements in the Madisonian Model

Trace the failures of the Articles of Confederation that led to the Constitutional Convention in 1787

Explain the compromises made at the Constitutional Convention

Analyze the arguments of the Federalists and Anti-federalists

Understand the difference between federal, unitary, and confederate systems and why the Founders chose a federal system

Recognize elements of our federal system, including the various powers, clauses, and Supreme Court rulings that enforce federalism

Trace the history of federalism in the U.S.

Identify the various elements of fiscal federalism, including grants-in-aid and mandates


Understand uni- and bi-cameralism

Identify the differences between the House of Representatives and the Senate

Identify reasons why incumbents are so hard to remove from elected office, including the “pork barrel” and casework

Trace the process by which a bill becomes a law

Identify leadership positions in both Houses and how that impacts the functioning of Congress

Explain the process of “democratization” of Congress

Identify the four committee types, their functions, and role in Congress



Textbook reading quizzes

Vocabulary quizzes

Reflective writings on Federalist 10 and 51

Article analysis on supplement readings

Timed writings based on past A.P. free response questions

Timed multiple-choice exams

Quick writes on various topics

Class debate:  Compromises

Chart:  Amending Process

Game:  Power Grab






Textbook reading quizzes

Vocabulary quizzes

Chart:  How a Bill becomes a Law

Quick writes on incumbency, leadership, and committees


Structure of the Executive Branch, including powers

Growth of Presidential powers over the years

Presidential roles

Impeachment process

Executive privilege, agreements, and orders

Structure of the Judicial Branch, including power of judicial review

Selection of federal judges

How cases are picked for Supreme Court review

Original intent versus judicial activism

Structure and roles of the bureaucratic agencies

Types of bureaucracies

Implementation and regulation of laws

Iron triangles/issue networks

How the three branches and the bureaucracy interact with and “check” one other













Why governments exist

What is comparative politics

What state, nations, regimes, and governments are

Origins of legitimacy and authority

The different types of political systems

What political participation is and how it differs depending on the type of government they live under, including the relative strengths or weaknesses of political parties and interest groups (including the different types of interest groups)

Industrialized and developing democracies/liberal and controlled (illiberal) democracies

Communist and post-communist states

Presidential and parliamentary systems

Electoral systems

Economic systems


Identify the different components of the executive branch

Identify the powers of the President

Explain how and why presidential power has expanded over time

Explain the different roles the President fulfills, including those that are not mentioned in the Constitution

Trace the impeachment process and identify those presidents who have faced impeachment

Identify the three ways the president is able to bypass Congress when desired (agreements, orders, and the claim of executive privilege)

Identify the three levels of the federal judiciary

Explain the process by which the president picks and the Senate approves new federal judges

Explain the process by which a case is called up to the Supreme Court and what happens then

Understand the difference between strict (original intent) interpretation and loose (activist) interpretation in judicial rulings

Identify the four types of bureaucratic agencies and what they do

Trace the process of implementation and regulation of new laws

Explain what iron triangles and issue networks are and be able to give a real world example of both

Understand the constitutional and legislative ways the three branches and the bureaucracy can control each other




Explain the history of governmental development

Explain what comparative politics is and the various comparative methods

Identify sources of legitimacy and authority present in most countries and their importance to governmental stability

Explain the differences between democratic and authoritarian, unitary and federal, and presidential and parliamentary systems

Analyze the various sorts of political participation present in different countries

Explain the differences between interest groups and political parties and why some countries have strong parties and/or interest groups and some have weak parties and/or interest groups

Explain the differences between industrialized and developing democracies

Explain the differences between liberal and controlled (illiberal) democracies

Compare parliamentary systems with presidential systems

Explain the differences between the various electoral systems, including “first past the post” and proportional

Compare market (capitalist), mixed (socialist), and command (communist) economic systems

Trace the history of globalization and analyze its positive and negative impact on states

Textbook reading quizzes

Vocabulary quizzes

Reflective writings on the politics of the pork barrel

Timed responses based on past A.P. free response questions

Timed multiple-choice exams

Class debate:  Original Intent?  Yes or No?

Silent debate:  For Pork or Not For Pork- That is the Question

Identifying and mapping an iron triangle with its related issue network

All the President’s Men:  The Limits of Executive Privilege

The History of Impeachment- Meet the Three Presidents Who Faced the Process














Textbook reading quizzes

Vocabulary quizzes

Article analysis on supplemental readings

Silent debate:  Globalization- Hurting or Helping Developing States?

Timed multiple-choice exam




Imperialism and Colonialism

Mexico’s history

Mexico’s government structure

Mexico’s current public policy challenges

Mexico’s political culture

Political participation by Mexican citizens

Interest groups in Mexico

Political parties in Mexico and their platforms















Political socialization

Political participation (both conventional and unconventional)

The differences between liberals and conservatives

Political ideologies










Political Parties in the U.S.

The two-party system- U.S. style

Third parties


Primary/caucus systems

The electoral college

The history of campaign finance and the efforts to reform it

Interest groups


Media in politics





Define imperialism and colonialism

Trace Mexico’s history since its colonization by Spain with special focus on the Mexican Revolution

Explain Mexico’s government structure, including the camarilla system

Identify Mexico’s current public policy challenges, including drug cartels, NAFTA, and the various economic challenges

Explain how Mexicans participate in politics, including voting and protesting

Explain Mexico’s interest group system, including the type of system and at least three examples

Identify Mexico’s three main political parties, their histories, and their platforms.  Also identify key leaders







Identify the different agents of political socialization

Explain the various ways citizens choose to participate in politics, including the conventional methods, like voting, and the unconventional ways, like protest

Analyze the ideological differences between liberals and conservatives, including both social and economic differences

Identity why different demographic groups tend to vote with specific political parties

Trace what makes a poll legitimate




Trace the history of political parties, from the anti-party ideals of the Founding Fathers to the modern day Republicans and Democrats

Explain why a two-party system developed in the U.S.

Identify the types of third parties, their purpose in a two party system and real world examples of them

Explain the differences between primaries and caucuses and the why they developed

Explain how politicians fund their campaigns and trace the history of efforts to reform the process and track donations, including the Campaign Refinance Act of 1974 and McCain-Feingold of 2002

Explain what a PAC is and why they developed

Analyze why the U.S. uses the electoral college, including the Founders beliefs about who should govern and how they should be elected

Explain the difference between a political party and an interest group

Identify the types of interest groups in the U.S. and how they try to influence politics

Trace the history of media’s involvement in politics, especially the rise of the investigative reporter and the “gotcha” attitude of many reporters since Watergate

Identify the roles of media in politics, including agenda setting and gate-keeping

Analyze the impact of cable, satellite, and the Internet on politics, especially campaigning

Identify bias in reporting

Explain how polling and the media are often intimately tied together when reporting political issues to the American public



Textbook reading quizzes

Vocabulary quizzes

Article analysis of supplemental readings

Compare/contrast chart for Mexico

Chart:  Mexico’s Political Parties

Video clips:  Mexico’s drug war and the Zapatistas











Textbook reading quizzes

Vocabulary quizzes

Politopia- Where Do You Live Politically?

Self-Mapping:  Ideological Development

Timed writings based on past A.P. free response questions






Textbook reading quizzes

Vocabulary quizzes

Timed multiple choice and free response exam

Article analysis on supplemental readings

Class debate:  the Electoral College

Scrapbook:  Examples of media bias

Living room candidate assignment on campaign ads

Researching an interest group and its PAC

Chart work on the history of campaign finance and reform efforts

All the President’s Men clips

Media in the Modern Age assignment






Great Britain’s history and structure of government

Sources of legitimacy in Great Britain

Great Britain’s current public policy issues

Great Britain’s political parties and their platforms

Great Britain’s interest group system and examples

Citizens political participation and political culture in G.B.










The development of the European Union and G.B.’s place in it

The E.U.’s current public policy issues and its fiscal and monetary policies

The E.U.’s trade policies





Through End of Term

Trace the history of Great Britain’s government

Explain the structure of G.B.’s government, especially its parliamentary system and the Parliament

Identify the modern British Prime Ministers

Identify the three major political parties in G.B. and their platforms

Identify G.B.’s interest group system and provide examples of different British interest group and their policy objectives

Explain where G.B.’s government derives its legitimacy from

Analyze how the British participate in politics and explain its political culture



Trace the history of the European Union

Explain the current public policy issues facing the E.U. and those facing G.B.

Explain the E.U.’s monetary and fiscal policies, especially the adoption of the Euro by some E.U. countries, but not by others

Trace the trade policies of the E.U.


Textbook reading quizzes

Vocabulary quizzes

Article analysis on supplemental readings

Timed multiple-choice exam

Timed free-response exam

Excerpts from E.U.Constitution

Group Country Presentation:  Great Britain

Compare/Contrast chart for Great Britain

Thatcherism vs. Blairism chart




Class debate:  Why join the E.U.?




3rd Term


 Fiscal, monetary, and taxation policies

How the U.S. collects money

Entitlement programs

Debt versus deficit

Yearly budget process

“welfare states”

Federal Reserve system

















Communism, Socialism, Marxism, Leninism, etc…

From Marx to modern Russia and China

Russian history

Chinese history

Russia’s political structure

China’s political structure

Political parties of Russia and China

Public policies of Russia and China

Political participation in Russia and China, including interest group activity









Identify the different taxation systems, from progressive to regressive

Explain “incrementalism

Explain the different methods the U.S. governments collect money, including income taxes and bonds

Trace the history of Social Security, including the additions of unemployment, disability, and Medicare

Explain the difference between the debt and the deficit

Trace the annual process the federal government goes through to create its year budget

Identify a “welfare state” and explain the development of public policies that are pushing the U.S. in the direction of becoming one

Explain what the Federal Reserve system is and what it does







Trace the development of communism from Karl Marx to modern day China, including its mutations into Leninism, Stalinism, and Maoism. 

Explain how communism is both a political and an economic system

Understand the differences between socialism and communism

Explain the brief history of Russia, especially from the Russian Revolution of 1917, the U.S.S.R. and its collapse, and the post-communist world of modern Russia

Explain the brief history of Russia, especially since the early 1920s with the rise of Mao Zedong, the Communist Revolution of 1949, and the modern communist state of China

Identify the political parties present in Russia and their structure/ideologies

Identify the structure of China’s Communist Party

Identify the major public policy issues facing both Russia and China, especially those in the last 20 years

Explain how Russians and Chinese citizens participate in politics and be able to identify the types of interest groups active in each country




Textbook reading quizzes

Vocabulary quizzes

Game:  Congress and the Budget

Chart- History of Social Security




















Textbook reading quizzes

Vocabulary quizzes

Timed multiple choice and free response exam

Article analysis on supplemental readings

Excerpt from “The Communist Manifesto” to compare to Leninism and Stalinism

Class debate:  Should China be a U.S. trade partner considering its human rights record?

Class debate:  Putin and “managed democracy”

Compare/contrast charts for Russian and China

Group countries presentations for both Russia and China





The Balanced Budget amendment



Areas of economic policymaking

Ties between the U.S. and the international economy, including trade policies

Poverty in the U.S.

Proposals to save Social Security

Health care issues

Environmental issues

National security issues

Globalization and the U.S.
















Explain the pros and cons of the Balanced Budget amendment

Define “inflation” and explain its impact on economic policies

Explain how unemployment impacts economic policies and different strategies the U.S. has tried to deal with it, including New Deal policies

Define the different areas of economic policy making:  business, labor, and consumer

Explain the various policies developed by the U.S. to deal with poverty issues, including New Deal and Great Society programs

Explain the various proposals to “save” Social Security

Identify the various proposals to create some type of nationalized health care policy, including free market proposals

Identify the various laws already on the books, like the Clean Water Act of 1970, and also explain the various new proposals to deal with environmental issues

Briefly trace the history of the U.S. in terms of foreign policy, for example:  The Monroe Doctrine… 

Identify the various national security policies the U.S. has

Explain how globalization links the U.S. to other nations through specific economic policies, like NAFTA







Textbook reading quizzes

Vocabulary quizzes

Timed multiple choice and free response exam

Article analysis of supplemental readings

Class debate:  Nationalized Health Care?

Silent debate:  Reforming Social Security



















Iran and Nigeria’s histories

Iran and Nigeria’s government structures

Iran and Nigeria’s current public policy challenges

Iran and Nigeria’s political culture

Iranian and Nigerian citizens and their political participation

Interest groups in Iran and Nigeria

Political parties in Iran and Nigeria















Supra-national organizations

Trace Iran’s history, with special focus on the end of the Shahs and the Iranian Revolution in 1979.  Also be able to trace Nigeria’s history, especially from the time Britain gave Nigeria its independence

Explain the government structures of Iran and Nigeria, including an explanation of the theocratic structure of Iran and the turbulent history of Nigeria since the British left

Identify the current public policy challenges facing Iran and Nigeria, including the “brain drain” and generational gap in Iran and the ethnic and oil-based conflicts in Nigeria

Explain the political culture in Iran and Nigeria, including the importance of Shari’a law in Iran and the influence of non-state players in Nigeria

Analyze how Iranian and Nigerian citizens participate in politics, including voting and protests

Identify the type of interest group systems present in both states, including real world examples of them and their policy goals

Identify the political parties present in Iran and Nigeria, including their platforms




Identify and explain what a collection of supra-national organizations, among them the United Nations and the World Trade Organizations do

Analyze the various impacts supra-nationals organizations have had on the six countries of the Comparative Politics class

Textbook quizzes

Vocabulary quizzes

Timed multiple-choice and free response exam

Article analysis of supplemental readings

Class debate:  Nuclear weapons in Iran?

Compare/contrast charts for Iran and Nigeria

Class debate:  Oil and Nigeria












Matching quiz

Chart:  The Supras


Civil rights and liberties

1st Amendment

Rights of the Accused

The “right to privacy”

Struggle for civil rights by ethnic/gender minorities

Expansion of voting rights

Affirmative Action

Civil rights legislation












Review US Government






Identify and explain the components of the 1st Amendment- speech, press, religion, assembly, and petition.  Also identify the various components of each right, for example- prior restraint and symbolic speech

Identify and explain the protections accused citizens have, including search and seizure laws and the right to an attorney in criminal cases

Trace the development of the implied “right to privacy” and its relation to the abortion debate

Trace the struggle of the various ethnic/gender minorities for their civil rights with a special focus on African Americans

Trace the expansion of voting rights, including the various amendments that address who can vote and what impact this has had on voter turnout in elections

Explain what Affirmative Action is and the history of the various programs related to it, including Supreme Court cases

Identify the various civil rights laws, including their components.  For example, the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Textbook reading quizzes

Vocabulary quizzes

Supreme Court case exam

Timed multiple choice and free response exam

Article analysis on supplemental readings

A Place at the Table lessons on various minority groups

Class debate:  Who Is a Minority?

Silent Debate:  Affirmative Action and Reverse Discrimination


Review Comparative Government




A.P. U.S. Government and A.P. Comparative Politics exams





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