UD’s political spectrum in class

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The Federalist Papers are among the readings that are required in Principles of American Politics. Photo by Marquel Plavan.

This week I began a conversation with a close friend by asking: “Have UD’s classes changed your position on the political spectrum whatsoever? Have you become more right or center?” He replied no. When I further inquired as to why, he said that while UD is above average at helping him to see how our government was instituted, as well as to understand the philosophical principles upon which it was based, this knowledge did not change his place on the political spectrum.

This conversation inspired my inquiry into what exactly UD’s Politics Department and its Core course, Principles of American Politics, had in common. I was expecting that perhaps
it had moved students further to the right or left politically, but only if they already claimed to be on that side of the political spectrum.

I was surprised by what I found. I spoke to a variety of seniors, juniors and even alumni on the subject, and I always found a similar answer. Wherever they rested on politics at the time of taking Principles is where they stayed. Their position was solidified.

For many, it did a lot more than that. Senior Daniel Simia noted that he “wouldn’t say it swayed me in any way, but it certainly enabled me to be more open-minded to other people’s opinions.” He further noted that this gained ability to be politically open was one of the greatest benefits he got out of the Core. Other seniors said that the course made them more concerned for constitutionality in everyday politics.

Freshman Meg Crawford said that in terms of everyday politics, she now has “more concern for the process of politics, and wanting people in Washington to do things as the founders
intended.”

For a brief period of time, I thought that maybe the course was not as in depth as it could be. Granted, I have been spoiled with an upper-elective politics course on Modern and Post-Modern Political Philosophy, which I would recommend to anybody. I have had the opportunity to read Nietzsche and Foucault, as well as John Dewey in a separate course.
These are some of the founding thinkers of modern progressivism, and it opened my eyes immensely to the core beliefs of our day-to-day politicians.

Principles of American Politics showed me the core foundations of America and Conservatism, and Modernity and Post Modernity invited me to an entirely different view of human existence aside from politics.

But are any of these authors necessary for a UD freshman in order to gain a complete view of modern American politics? I would argue no. That is not the purpose of the Principles course, and it never has been. Although I would encourage the reading of post-modern political thought at some point in an individual’s life, I don’t see it as necessary for the Core, let alone a 1300 level course.

It is also important to note that the Principles course is not meant to change anybody’s political outlook, and that is intentional. Anybody who takes the course and pays a lick of attention will hopefully become a better citizen and develop a further appreciation for the eloquence of thought that went into the founding of America, but the political spectrum is always a personal journey. UD and the politics department do a fantastic job of assisting in that journey, even if that assistance doesn’t seem to sway students’ political leanings.

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