Rigor vs. Insight: Teaching Political Science to Science & Engineering Students
13 Pages Posted: 7 Feb 2013
In this paper I identify major challenges in teaching core concepts and methodologies of political science to students majoring in science and engineering (S&E) based on five years of teaching in a technological university. With strong belief in Mertonian norms of science inculcated in classes and labs of their own major departments, S&E students typically exhibit a common misunderstanding of “science” in political science as rhetorical addition to what is essentially a subjective view of unruly and messy politics. Such a misperception leads to their difficulty in recognizing that political phenomena can also be studied in ways as scientifically rigorous as natural phenomena are. It further obstructs them from appreciating qualitative research methods as valid tools of research enriching our understanding of not only social but natural phenomena. Lastly, S&E students are generally less tolerant to ambivalence and uncertainty in discussion processes and outcomes. This paper also presents the current state of the political science curricula in major Asian science & technology universities. These universities generally lack a full-scale department in humanities or social sciences making it hard to mobilize the content knowledge or methods of sister disciplines. This paper hopes to start a discussion and research about those challenges as well as unique opportunities for political science education to contribute to the core curricula of technological universities.
Keywords: political science, general education, liberal arts education, Mertonian norm, two cultures
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