Wednesday, 6 December 2006

Debate this

My student Jim Swift inadvertently demonstrates via anecdote why I tend to avoid current events and policy discussions like the plague in my classes.


Any views expressed in these comments are solely those of their authors; they do not reflect the views of the authors of Signifying Nothing, unless attributed to one of us.

Good call. God forbid that you be relevant.

[Permalink] 2. Scott wrote @ Fri, 8 Dec 2006, 9:13 am CST:


A Political Science class is NOT a current events class. While current examples may be used to make a point, they are often too distracting to the real purpose of the class (in the interest of full disclosure, I use examples from current events all the time, but I am, apparently, a better master over classroom discussion than the instructor described in the kid’s blog).

That is, it is hard to convey a mastery of the process, and how our institutional structures bias the operation of that process, when the kids are frothing at the mouth over the politics of a particular issue.


So you don’t “avoid current events and policy discussions like the plague.” That’s what rankled me about this post.


aNON: It turns out that I occasionally make use of the verbal forms known as “hyperbole” and “sarcasm” for humorous effect on this blog. My apologies that you took it seriously.


Wow, I’ll have to google those words and see what they’re all about! Thank you, masters of pedagogy.

UPDATE: I have looked up this word “sarcasm” on the “innernets” and I’m not at all sure that that’s an accurate term for describing your initial post, which did indeed seem to imply that you avoided current events and policy discussions in class. But maybe I’m just, um, splitting hairs.


I didn’t say I used both in the initial post, just that both are frequently encountered on this blog, so tread carefully before taking anything too seriously.


All semantic distractions aside, do you engage in current events and policy discussions in class?


Is this a job interview? ☺

I relate political science theories to current events and policy issues; for example, after the midterm elections I talked about those elections in the broader context of political science in both my electoral behavior and introductory courses.

That said, current events are not the primary focus of any of my classes (for basically the same reasons Scott outlined above). Do too much of it and you end up playing “debate club” rather than “political science class.”

[Permalink] 9. Scott wrote @ Fri, 8 Dec 2006, 1:11 pm CST:

I’ll follow up by noting that any discussion of current events should be a means, not an end. For example, I discussed the mid-term elections quite a bit in my Political Parties & Interest Groups class, but not at all in my Methodology class. Further, my only discussion of the election once we moved to the “interest groups” section of the Parties & Groups class came when discussing campaign contributions.

Additionally, I didn’t discuss the mid-term congressional elections at all when I was covering Congress in my Am Gvt class….because I focus on the institution and process of the body…neither did I discuss the election in my Am Gvt class on the days we met around election day….because we were covering courts and it was not germane. That said, when we reached “campaigns & elections,” I pulled quite a few examples from the recent elections and even showed several campaign ads on YouTube.

In sum, current events should only serve a point….they should never BE the point in a good political science class…. IMHO

I do not see the purpose of poli sci classes to teach about government “today” so much as they are to teach about power and government in a way that will allow the student to analyze the governments, policies, and power dynamics of yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

[Permalink] 10. anonymous wrote @ Tue, 12 Dec 2006, 3:01 pm CST:

lol. this conversation does sound like a phone interview gone horribly awry…


Oh, no, a phone interview gone horribly awry would be far worse than this thread… been there, done that, got the T-shirt. This morning, in fact.

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