The United States Government and how it got that way


Three branches of the US governmentOverview:
With the United States elections scheduled to take place in November, this timely course examines the three branches of the United States Government—legislative, executive, and judicial. You will focus on the ways in which the power of government overlaps and how these overlaps have changed in the 230 years since the government was created. Special attention will be paid to the political parties and the way that government officials are (s)elected

Target audience:
This course will appeal to anyone who is interested in knowing more about the details and vagaries of the United States government and the politics that inform and surround it.

Learning objectives:
By the end of this course, you will have:

  • discussed in detail how the idea of compromise infused the creation of the American government and evaluated to what extent that spirit of compromise still exists
  • examined the rise of political parties and how they came to dominate the governmental landscape
  • examined a series of case studies that illustrate the checks and balances of the three branches of the American government, with an eye toward evaluating how well certain powers are checked and balanced
  • examined how extraordinary times have led to the development of the imperial presidency
  • discussed in detail the biographies of famous American politicians, including presidents, Supreme Court justices, and members of Congress.

Course outline:
Each session includes a lecture presentation with time for questions and group discussion.

Session 1
The Lawmakers: Congress and the Legislative Branch

Session 2
The Enforcers: The President and the Executive Branch

Session 3
The Arbiters: The Supreme Court and the Judicial Branch

There is a short break halfway through each session and you are welcome to bring your own refreshments if you wish.

David White is a historian and education professional who studied history and journalism at the University of Kansas, United States. He grew up in America and spent more than 30 years living and breathing American politics and government.

“Both speakers gave well researched & presented information on the protest movements. We were challenged to think about how people are moved to protest on important issues. A very good course”, Ten Protest Movements that Changed the World (2018)

“David's research and presentation was top class. Very interesting course and I gained new knowledge of the history of civil rights in America”, Civil War to Civil Rights: The African-American experience (2017)

“An excellent, informative, fascinating course and subject. David is a wonderful presenter who demonstrates a deep knowledge and passion for the subject. Thoroughly enjoyable - can't recommend this course enough”, Civil War to Civil Rights: The African-American experience (2017)

Relevant links:
School of History, Philosophy, Political Studies and International Relations

For further information:
Continuing Education, Victoria University of Wellington, PO Box 600, Wellington 6140
Phone 04 463 6556, Email:

Please note: Courses need a minimum number of enrolments to go ahead. If your course doesn’t reach the number required, we’ll have to cancel it. If this happens, we’ll contact you by phone or email about a week before the scheduled start date and arrange a full refund. Please check your emails regularly.