MindEdge Online Learning

American Government

American Government

MindEdge’s American Government course is designed to help college and university students gain a solid foundation in the theory and practice of American government by utilizing games, videos, interactive exercises, quizzes, and other engaging content.

MindEdge’s American Government content helps students understand the historical framework for America’s constitutional democracy, recognize the different roles of the three branches of government, appreciate the role of the courts in protecting civil rights and civil liberties, trace the evolving role of political parties in the American system, consider the growing influence of the mass media on government decision-making, explore how public opinion affects both politics and policy-making, and contrast the historical role of the federal government with those of the individual states.

This course employs narrative scenarios while developing reasoned thinking and writing skills.


Module 1: History and Constitutional Background

  • Explain the historical forces that led to the creation of the U.S. Constitution
  • Compare and contrast different systems of government
  • Discuss the two main types of democracy
  • Outline different models for the distribution of power in a democracy
  • Discuss the importance of the First and Second Continental Congresses
  • Assess the specific weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation
  • Explain the conflict between large and small states during the Constitutional Convention, and the significance of the Great Compromise
  • Discuss how the Constitution’s treatment of slavery affected the course of American history
  • Summarize the key provisions of the Constitution
  • Discuss the debate over ratification and the significance of <em>The Federalist Papers</em>
  • Explain the specific protections of civil liberties embodied in the Bill of Rights
  • Outline the different views of American federalism
  • Discuss the core democratic principles embodied in the Constitution
  • Explain and provide examples of the separation of powers
  • Explain and provide examples of the system of checks and balances
  • Discuss the process of amending the Constitution
  • Explain how the amendment process has affected the cause of women’s rights

Module 2: Congress: Legislation and Oversight

  • Detail the different roles played by the House and the Senate
  • Explain the difference between the Congressional system and the parliamentary system
  • Discuss the organizational structure of Congress
  • Identify the five types of Congressional committees
  • Describe the Congressional budget process
  • Explain how a bill becomes a law
  • Discuss the impact of lobbying on the legislative process
  • Explain the importance of Congressional oversight as a check on the Executive Branch
  • Assess the importance of the “revolving door” between Congress and the private sector
  • Explain how redistricting and gerrymandering affect the makeup of the House of Representatives

Module 3: The Presidency: Leadership and Administration

  • Discuss how the relationship between Congress and the President has evolved over time
  • Describe the process for nominating and electing a President, and assess how this process affects national policy
  • Distinguish between the President’s formal and informal powers
  • Discuss the President’s varying roles as head of state, chief executive, commander-in-chief, and party leader
  • Discuss how the President can use judicial nominations to affect public policy
  • Explain the use of executive orders and signing statements
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of the “bully pulpit” as a leadership tool
  • Discuss how the President’s leadership in foreign affairs can affect domestic policy-making
  • Describe the role of the Vice President, and explain the process of Presidential succession
  • Outline the organization of the Executive Branch, including both the President’s staff and the Cabinet
  • Explain the President’s role in the legislative process
  • Discuss how the Tenure of Office Act and the War Powers Resolution of 1973 affected the balance of power between President and Congress
  • Describe the impeachment process, and assess its effectiveness as a check on Presidential power

Module 4: The Judiciary: Civil Liberties and Civil Rights

  • Explain the main sources of American law, including the state and federal constitutions; statutes and regulations; and common law
  • Outline the structure of the federal court system
  • Distinguish between judicial activism and judicial restraint
  • Give specific examples, within the last ten years, of the Supreme Court’s role in making policy
  • Distinguish between “civil liberties” and “civil rights”
  • Specify the circumstances under which governments may override the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech
  • Discuss how security concerns in the post-9/11 era have affected American civil liberties
  • Identify the constitutional rights of criminal defendants
  • Trace the evolution of civil rights for African-Americans, from the Reconstruction Amendments to the 1960s
  • Define affirmative action, and summarize the arguments for and against it
  • Summarize the fight from women’s rights, from voting to the ERA
  • Detail the rights provided by the Americans With Disabilities Act
  • Summarize the key court decisions affecting the civil rights of gay men and lesbians

Module 5: Political Parties and Interest Groups

  • Explain the key functions of political parties in the American system
  • Trace the development of the American two-party system
  • Identify the key positions taken by the major parties on economic and social issues
  • Describe the elements of a political party: the party organization, the party-in-the-electorate, and the party-in-government
  • Assess the impact of third parties on American politics
  • Explain the declining power of party organizations, and the increasing importance of independent voters
  • Assess the role of the political parties in the wake of the Citizens United decision
  • Describe the basic characteristics of interest groups
  • List the major types of interest groups
  • Discuss the principal reasons for individuals to join interest groups
  • Explain why some interest groups become more powerful than others
  • Identify the principal interest-group strategies, both direct and indirect
  • Describe the role of lobbyists and explain how they are regulated
  • Discuss interest groups in the context of pluralism and elite theory

Module 6: Bureaucracy and the Media

  • Name and describe the different models of bureaucratic behavior
  • Describe the growth of the federal bureaucracy, from the Civil War to the present
  • Identify the largest federal departments and spending programs
  • Describe the different types of agencies and organizations in the federal bureaucracy
  • Discuss the evolution of hiring practices, from the spoils system to the modern civil service
  • Assess the effectiveness of differing strategies for reforming the bureaucracy and improving its efficiency
  • Evaluate the role of whistleblowers in reforming the federal bureaucracy
  • Discuss the federal rule-making process, and the role of Congress in that process
  • Describe the different types of mass media
  • Explain how the role of the media in American politics has changed over time
  • Assess the importance of the media as a factor in the decline of political parties
  • Discuss the growing importance of digital media in politics, both in advertising and in organizing
  • Evaluate the impact of highly concentrated media ownership on the political process
  • Discuss the need for balancing the free speech rights of journalists against the need for reducing media bias

Module 7: Political Socialization and Public Opinion

  • Define the term public opinion, and distinguish between consensus and divided opinion
  • Discuss the major sources of political socialization, including family, schools, and the media
  • Identify the most important demographic and behavioral influences on public opinion, including party identification, education, gender, religion, and race
  • Describe the characteristics of a scientific public-opinion poll, and explain the factors that affect polling accuracy
  • Explain how new technologies are affecting public-opinion polling
  • Discuss the positive and negative impacts that polling can have on political decision-makers
  • Trace the growing success of women and minorities as candidates for political office
  • Describe the current system of political finance, and explain the impact of the Citizens United decision on campaign fundraising
  • Identify the different mechanisms for voting, including mail and electronic voting, and how they make affect election outcomes
  • Discuss the importance of voter turnout in determining election outcomes
  • Identify the different factors that affect voter turnout, including age, education, income, ethnicity, and ideology
  • Summarize the arguments for and against stricter voter-ID laws

Module 8: The States: Federalism and States’ Rights

  • Outline the powers exercised by the states, including the reserve powers and the concurrent powers
  • Describe how the Constitution provides a framework for federalism
  • Describe the benefits of federalism
  • Summarize the contemporary arguments against federalism
  • Identify the key Supreme Court cases that confirmed the authority of the federal government within the federal system
  • Describe the relationship between the states and local governments
  • Define dual federalism, and explain how this concept affected the national debate over slavery in the early 19th century
  • Explain how the Civil War and the New Deal each affected the American system of federalism
  • Discuss how the concept of states’ rights affected the civil rights of African-Americans, from the Jim Crow era through the civil rights movement
  • Define cooperative federalism, and discuss its impact on the states
  • Explain how federal funding can shape federal-state relations
  • Describe the Supreme Court’s recent trend toward a more expansive view of states’ rights
  • Discuss how the concept of states’ rights influenced the national debate over same-sex marriage