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History 545
Spring  2015
Prof. John Putman




Constitutional History of the US






History 545 examines the origins and development of American constitutional ideas and institutions from the colonial period to the present.  In particular, it explores the historical connections between major constitutional cases and broader social, political, economic, and cultural trends. The course will be organized around important constitutional themes, such as the relationship between the states and the national government, impact of the market, race and equality, religion, free speech, corporate capitalism and government regulation, gender and sexuality, and civil liberties.  The course is not a history of the law or the legal profession, but rather it focuses largely on the interrelationship between the constitution and American society.  Students are not required to have previous knowledge of constitutional law or the history of the Supreme Court, however, a basic understanding of American history is helpful. 


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     Melvin Urofsky, Supreme Court Decisions, (combined volume 1-2)

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   Additional readings, court decisions, and documents will be available online.



Grades will be based on a midterm exam, a 10 page paper, class participation, and a final exam. The exams are essay in form.  Class participation includes classroom discussions, short writings, activities, and attendance.

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Midterm:                         25%                                                               

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Paper:                              30%                               

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Final:                               25%

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Class Participation:       20%

Students enrolled in History 545 must be willing and committed to read, analyze, and discuss Supreme Court decisions and participate in both class discussions of readings and possible in-class presentations. By the 3rd week of the semester this course will fall into a pattern of lecture and discussion of readings and documents on Tuesdays and detailed discussion of Supreme Court decisions on Thursdays.  I have lighten the outside reading load to approximately 40-50 pages per week so that students can have time to read complex and sometimes dense court decisions that may range from 20-60 pages per week.  Students will be required to submit at the beginning of class a Case Brief of the case or cases to be discussed that class period.  Discussions are not voluntary and are required.  I will call on students at random or those I have not heard from much to insure that students participate in the learning process. 

top Student Learning Goals:

1. Students will understand and analyze the major themes and issues in American Constitutional History and the  historical forces that shaped them.

2. Students will understand the law and the constitution have shaped the experiences of racial minorities, women, and     other marginalized people

3. Students will explore and critically analyze both primary and secondary source material.

4. Students will probe the nature of historical interpretation.

5. Students will undertake historical research using primary source material and improve writing skills.

A brief note on grades:  A student will earn an “A” for only excellent and outstanding work.  A “B” represents very good work, which means more than just doing the job.  A “C” is given to those who demonstrate adequate competence and satisfactory completion of assignments.  “D” work is that which fails to demonstrate competence and/or fails to fully complete the assignment.  I don’t think I need to explain the meaning of an “F” to you. Finally, I always assume that each student puts his or her full effort into an assignment, so please don’t try to make a case for a higher grade based on how much time and effort you put into an assignment.  I can only grade performance not effort.

. Please be aware that the major themes and ideas that comprise my exams are generally drawn from my lectures so attendance is critical if you wish to do well in this course. Readings, both from the text and the other assigned books, are not extra or optional assignments. The readings complement, but do not replace, my lectures and are there to help you better understand major themes and issues raised in class.  One key to success in this course is to keep up with the reading assignments.

SDSU Academic Honesty Policy: Institutions of higher education are founded to impart knowledge, seek truth, and encourage one’s development for the good of society. University students shall thus be intellectually and morally obliged to pursue their course of studies with honesty and integrity. Therefore, in preparing and submitting materials for academic courses and in taking examinations, a student shall not yield to cheating or plagiarism, which not only violate academic standards but also make the offender liable to penalties explicit in Title 5.

Cheating shall be defined as the act of obtaining or attempting to obtain credit for academic work by the use of dishonest, deceptive, or fraudulent means. Examples of cheating include, but are not limited to (a) copying, in part or in whole, from another’s test or other examination; (b) discussing answers or ideas relating to the answers on a test or other examination without the permission of the instructor; (c) obtaining copies of a test, an examination, or other course material without the permission of the instructor; (d) using notes, cheat sheets, or other devices considered inappropriate under the prescribed testing condition; (e) collaborating with another or others in work to be presented without the permission of the instructor; (f) falsifying records, laboratory work, or other course data; (g) submitting work previously presented in another course, if contrary to the rules of the course; (h) altering or interfering with the grading procedures; (i) plagiarizing, as defined; and (j) knowingly and intentionally assisting another student in any of the above.
Plagiarism shall be defined as the act of incorporating ideas, words, or specific substance of another, whether purchased, borrowed, or otherwise obtained, and submitting same to the University as one’s own work to fulfill academic requirements without giving credit to the appropriate source. Plagiarism shall include but not be limited to (a) submitting work, either in part or in whole, completed by another; (b) omitting footnotes for ideas, statements, facts, or conclusions that belong to another; (c) omitting quotation marks when quoting directly from another, whether it be a paragraph, sentence, or part thereof; (d) close and lengthy paraphrasing of the writings of another; (e) submitting another person’s artistic works, such as musical compositions, photographs, paintings, drawings, or sculptures; and (f) submitting as one’s own work papers purchased from research companies. Those guilty of committing plagiarism or cheating will receive an F for both the assignment and the entire course.

“Students agree that by taking this course all required papers may be subject to submission for textual similarity review to Blackboard's for the detection of plagiarism. All submitted papers will be included as source documents in the reference database solely for the purpose of detecting plagiarism of such papers. You may submit your papers in such a way that no identifying information about you is included. Another option is that you may request, in writing, that your papers not be submitted However, if you choose this option you will be required to provide documentation to substantiate that the papers are your original work and do not include any plagiarized material.”

Class Etiquette: Please arrive on time and do not leave before the end of class unless you inform me prior to class.  Also, please be sure cell phones are off or on silent.  This includes no text messaging while in class. Finally, laptops can only be used to take notes..