The U.S. political system suffers from endemic design flaws and is notable for the way that a small subset of Americans—whose interests often don’t align with those of the vast majority of the population—wields disproportionate power. Absent organized and persistent action on the part of ordinary Americans, the system tends to serve the already powerful. That’s why this text is called Attenuated Democracy. To attenuate something is to make it weak or thin. Democracy in America has been thin from the beginning and continues to be so despite some notable progress in voting rights. As political scientists Benjamin Page and Martin Gilens wrote, “The essence of democracy is not just having reasonably satisfactory policies; the essence of democracy is popular control of government, with each citizen having an equal voice.” (1) Since this is likely to be your only college-level course on the American political system, it is important to point out the structural weaknesses of our system and the thin nature of our democracy. Whenever you get the chance—in the voting booth, in your job, perhaps if you hold elected office—I encourage you to do something about America’s attenuated democracy.
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What is technical writing? You can think of it as writing about specialized topics or you could also think of it as using technology to communicate your ideas. A science lab report, a specification, a change order for building construction, or patient education materials–just to name a few–are all considered technical writing. Similarly if you design a webpage or a brochure this can also be considered technical writing. Academic writing, the writing you do for school, generally is informative or persuasive writing and usually only comes in a few different genres. In technical writing, on the other hand, one is often documenting what was done (such as a science experiment or auto repair invoice). Therefore the format of the writing is often as important as the content. This leads to an emphasis on usability and accessibility for your documents. Finally, although citing your sources is important in all writing, you will find that in some fields of technical writing, such as the sciences and engineering, it is one of the more important considerations of your writing.