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American Government:  OpenStax [College]

American Government: OpenStax [College]

American Government is designed to meet the scope and sequence requirements of the single-semester American Government course. The title includes innovative features to enhance student learning, including Insider Perspective features and a Get Connected module that shows students how they can get engaged in the political process. The book provides an important opportunity for students to learn the core concepts of American Government and...

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Stephen Goggin
Stephen Goggin (Faculty)
6 years ago

After providing many STEM-related introductory textbooks for several years, OpenStax has finally produced an introductory American Politics textbook, and on close inspection, it is very good. This book is more comprehensive in the topics it engages than most introductory courses (the addition of separate foreign + domestic policy chapters is nice) and contains the depth necessary on nearly every topic. Like many costly textbooks from a variety of publishers, this book is not perfect. But, it is free, comprehensive, and contains a variety of learning aids that make it perfectly useable as the core text in a course that serves as an introduction to American politics.

It is available for free as both a high- & low-res PDF, EPUB, iBooks, through an online viewer, and in print as either a paperback or hardback for roughly $30/$50. No matter students' technological sophistication or resources, it can easily be accessed. While many seem to tend towards downloading a static format, OpenStax regularly pushes updates to content (for example, a post-2016 election update) as well as fixing minor errors throughout the textbook, so it is useful to access the dynamic content available via the web. I have yet to find a typographical or content error in the book.

The ordering and organization of the content of the book is natural and mirrors many of the existing texts on this topic. While an instructor may wish to customize the content of the book, little customization appears necessary, as at most, it requires simply reordering a few chapters depending on one's preferences. The many graphic examples and tables/figures throughout the book are on par with some of the better expensive textbooks out there, and pair nicely with the book's prose.

I will be adopting the book this fall, and supplementing with a variety of content from academic journals and journalistic resources. In sum, this textbook is a great example of what happens when OERs are well-funded by non-profits. The quality, accessibility, and content are incredible, and on par with textbooks that are $100+.

Used in course? Yes
Nicholas Boushee
Nicholas Boushee (Faculty)
4 years ago
I compared Lowi et al.'s American Government: Power & Purpose to this OER textbook. I've included my side by side comparison below. Texts American Government: Power and Purpose. 2017. (14th Full & Core Eds.) Lowi, Ginsberg, Shepsle, and Ansolabehere. (LGSA from here on) American Government. (OpenStax). 2017. Glen Krutz Author Credentials & Expertise “Stephen Ansolabehere is Professor of Government at Harvard University. He is the coauthor of The Media Game and Going Negative: How Political Advertising Alienates and Polarizes the American Electorate, which was awarded the Goldsmith Book Prize. His articles have appeared in The American Political Science Review, The Journal of Politics, Legislative Studies Quarterly, and Public Opinion Quarterly. He has been awarded fellowships by the Carnegie Corporation Fellowship and the Hoover Institution. He served as a codirector of the CalTech/MIT Voting Project, established in the wake of the 2000 presidential election to evaluate the current state of the reliability and uniformity of U.S. voting systems and to propose uniform guidelines and requirements for reliable voting and performance.” (text bios) “Dr. Glen Krutz (Content Lead & multiple other contributors, e.g. Tulane, ASU, CUNY, etc.) received his BA and MPA from the University of Nevada–Reno, and his PhD from Texas A&M University. He joined the University of Oklahoma’s Department of Political Science in 2002 and serves as Professor of Political Science, teaching the American Government course to hundreds of students each semester. Prior to his academic career, Dr. Krutz worked in politics and policy, as a campaign assistant and then Capitol Hill aide to a U.S. senator, and as a research analyst for what would become the Nevada System of Higher Education. He has authored and co-authored several books, and his work has appeared in numerous leading journals. Dr. Krutz’s current research probes questions of public policy agenda-setting in democratic political institutions, especially Congress.” (text bios) Publishers W.W. Norton OpenStax Length 848 (full) / 752 (core) vs. 778 pages Cost $56 (full) / $70 (core) new on Amazon: I allow older editions & used they are significantly less VS. Free pdf & $42 (hardcover) & $39 (softcover) Estimated time between updated editions 1 (election updates) - 2 years (full) vs. Unknown but supposedly frequently: “Since our books are web-based, we can make updates periodically when deemed pedagogically necessary.” Supplemental materials Blackboard and Canvas course packs including PPT, test banks, web links, videos, interactive data, etc. The quiz bank is substantial with upwards of 30 to 50 questions per chapter. The questions vary from multiple choice, matching, true or false, and short response to videos. I love this feature. PPTs are impressive and updated with each edition. The data is often interactive and varied in color and form, and high resolution. Canvas course cartridge is included as well. The quiz bank is very limited, 4 quizzes in total (for entire text), ranging from 3 to 10 questions. The modules are chapter by chapter and appear to be more extensive, but as a means of assessment I am unsure until I load into Canvas and test to see how it aligns with the grade center/grade book. The PPTs are of lesser quality. This is apparent in the data often being limited and presented in a less sophisticated/not as clear manner (simple line graphs with thin lines, difficult to decipher color-coding, and keys). Pictures and data are often in low resolution and therefore look pixilated. Table of Contents LGSA CHAPTER 1. FIVE PRINCIPLES OF POLITICS CHAPTER 2. CONSTRUCTING A GOVERNMENT: THE FOUNDING AND THE CONSTITUTION CHAPTER 3. FEDERALISM AND THE SEPARATION OF POWERS CHAPTER 4. CIVIL LIBERTIES CHAPTER 5. CIVIL RIGHTS CHAPTER 6. CONGRESS: THE FIRST BRANCH CHAPTER 7. THE PRESIDENCY AS AN INSTITUTION CHAPTER 8. THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH: BUREAUCRACY IN A DEMOCRACY CHAPTER 9. THE FEDERAL COURTS CHAPTER 10. PUBLIC OPINION CHAPTER 11. ELECTIONS CHAPTER 12. POLITICAL PARTIES CHAPTER 13. GROUPS AND INTERESTS CHAPTER 14. THE MEDIA CHAPTER 15. ECONOMIC POLICY CHAPTER 16. SOCIAL POLICY CHAPTER 17. FOREIGN POLICY Table of Contents [*with comparative comments] OPENSTAX Chapter 1: American Government and Civic Engagement * Of note is the absence of clear overarching themes that are comparable to the LGSA’s “5 Principles of Politics” that carry throughout all chapters, providing cohesion and clarity to students. Chapter 2: The Constitution and Its Origins * Very similar to the LGSA covering the Federalist vs. Anti-federalist factions, historical events, and the ratification process. Chapter 3: American Federalism * Very similar to LGSA, including cooperative vs. dual federalism. It even features the same cake visual metaphor (fig. 3.12). Chapter 4: Civil Liberties *Very similar to LGSA. I do appreciate the topical examples of Edward Snowden and the PATRIOT Act. Chapter 5: Civil Rights * Similar in base concepts to LGSA. I do like the focus on various PoC & gender politics. Chapter 6: The Politics of Public Opinion * This chapter does not have as much overlap as I would like, e.g. illusion of salience, push polling, measurement error, etc. Chapter 7: Voting and Elections * Again, very similar to LGSA (Florida 2000 election used as example throughout, voter registration, administration, turnout trends, direct democracy, etc.) with notable absence of focus on voter technology. Chapter 8: The Media * Features similar base concepts such as agenda setting, framing, & priming. The data comparing Fox, CNN, & MSNBC is compelling. Chapter 9: Political Parties * I prefer the LGSA focus on functions of parties (education, facilitating choice, collective action, etc.) over the focus on party systems, and polarization. Further, the absence of key concepts such as V.O. Key Jr.’s Three Faces of the Party is a notable content deficiency. Chapter 10: Interest Groups and Lobbying * Very similar to LGSA, though with noted absence of video links to Stephen Colbert and Daily Show clips satirizing interest groups here and throughout. Chapter 11: Congress * The last section on the process is a weak point compared to the LGSA extensive infographics on the life of a bill. Chapter 12: The Presidency * Very similar to LGSA with organizing between formal and informal powers, going public (and examples from FDR to Obama), and summary of unilateral tools (executive orders, signing statements, agreements, memos, etc.). Chapter 13: The Courts * I prefer the LGSA’s focus on fundamental typologies, e.g. types of law, types of courts, and core judicial principles (precedent, judicial review, jurisprudence, etc.). Chapter 14: State and Local Government *This chapter constitutes an addition, though one that is somewhat redundant given the requirement to have a separate California politics textbook. Chapter 15: The Bureaucracy * This chapter would benefit from moving closer to the presidency chapter. Further, I believe the LGSA’s focus on the missions and types of agencies is clearer and of more utility for students. Chapter 16: Domestic Policy * This chapter seems to merge the social & economic policy chapters of the LGSA, and it does so without losing much content. I like this. Chapter 17: Foreign Policy * This is perhaps the weakest chapter, lacking a cohesive theme, and/or typology comparable to the LGSA. The pictures are not very helpful, e.g. pictures of former secretary of states vs. data of relevance of the topic.
Time spent reviewing site: 5 hours