Monday, November 04, 2013

How Political Science Professors Shouldn't Act

From Inside Higher Ed, a political science professor in Canada makes fun of a student:

Shaun Narine, associate professor of political science, was at a campus lecture by a journalist who asked the students in attendance (from political science and journalism programs) why young people don't vote. One student said that it was because students don't understand the political system, and find it complicated.

Narine quickly interjected: "Read a book, for God's sake."

Somehow "being a jerk" gets translated to the more neutral "speaking your mind." You have a student who is trying to articulate something that involves publicly admitting their own ignorance, and your response is to humiliate and shame them? Of all people, political scientists should know that the political system is complicated, and what we try to do in our classes is explain it.

To be fair, he was contrite. But:

But as to the point that she should read a book, and become more informed? He said he stands behind that idea. "Very much so. What I did was wrong for a variety of reasons. On the other hand though, I think the reason for my frustration was valid. I don’t want to justify myself. I genuinely felt like an ass. But I’m not going to pretend that I don’t feel strongly that our students, and Canadians in general, need to know enough about their political system that they can participate in it in a meaningful way," he said.

I don't disagree, but what's missing is that in fact helping people do this is our job as political scientists and the takeaway should be that we should find better ways of doing it rather than just bemoaning ignorance.


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