Teaching the Election in Classrooms

This quarter, teachers across campus have incorporated materials related to the current U.S. presidential election into their classes. David Spataro, who teaches three sections of Intro to Political Science, added material in the weeks near the election.

“I made last last week’s material and this week’s material related to American political culture and U.S. elections. Last week we had readings on a famous essay called ‘The Paranoid Style in American Politics,’ which we applied to how the Trump campaign is doing things. This week we are reading about voting and corruption in the election system,” Spataro explained.

“It was important to [incorporate material] because the election was garnering so much attention, but I hadn’t expected this moment where it seemed so firmly like it was going to be Hillary. Last week I was not sure how interested we were going to be because it looked like it was going to be a landslide election, now it doesn’t really look that way, so it’s been back and forth in that regard,” Spataro added. The political science department discussed having department-wide election related material but nothing was officially planned.

Spataro voiced concerns over focusing on the presidential election in class. “This is a moment where students are paying closer attention to the elections, and there is a sense among faculty that that’s a good opportunity to bring students into following politics. I have reservations about that because I think it reiterates the notion that we follow politics briefly before the presidential election and then we ignore it the rest of the time,” Spataro said.michael-korolenko-for-web
Katherine Oleson, who teaches Introduction to Mass Media, also incorporated election material into her classes, adding readings and discussions related to the election throughout the quarter. “I have added a special section that looks at positive campaign ads. So often we see negative ones, this is an opportunity to look at some positive campaign messages from past elections can be helpful for getting context on the ones we are seeing now. I’ve also included a few articles about things that are connected to the election and connected to course content,” Oleson detailed. In Oleson’s classes, students have discussed in online posts their opinions on presidential candidates, those running for governor, and have made ties between the election and other course materials.

“It’s been neat to see that students are very aware and involved,” said Oleson. Oleson also taught an interdisciplinary class with the Political Science Department last winter about the election and the primaries. The class was able to educate students about the inner workings of the primaries during a time when many students would be voting.
Michael Korolenko, who teaches Propaganda and Intro to Media among other classes, has incorporated examples of propaganda from both the right and the left into his classes and engaged in online discussions about political propaganda with students. “There is so much propaganda that its awful. I talk about both sides,” Korolenko reflected. Hate groups have always existed, but recently Donald Trump’s campaign has been accused of providing a platform for hate groups to be more vocal. “It’s almost as if Trump kicked over a rock and all these slimy things crawled out. They’re anti-black, they’re anti-Semitic, they’re anti-Muslim and they’re anti-women,” explained Korolenko.

The mathematics department’s Jen Townsend hosted a lecture about the ways in which mathematics impacts elections and politics. The lecture was held in room C130A from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. on November 4.