Teaching Political Inequality Through Political Campaign Content Analysis
9 Pages Posted: 7 Feb 2013
Date Written: February 7, 2013
Scholars have shown that in general, undergraduate students are often minimally aware of and or/ apathetic towards current political issues (Wilkins 1999; Bloch-Schulman and Jovanovic 2011). In the field of sociology, while students are often exposed to issues of gender, race/ethnicity and class inequalities, they often fail to understand the political structures and politics that reinforce these inequalities on a daily basis. Because of their assumed ignorance, politicians are increasingly generating barrier-creating policies that make it difficult for students to vote. Recently, William O’Brien, House Speak from New Hampshire said of student voters, “They don’t have life experience, and they just vote their feelings” (Shultheis, 2011).
This assumes that college students are ill-prepared to take part in civic engagement. To improve student awareness of current political debates and issues facing US politics, I have developed a classroom activity that highlights persistent inequalities in politics today; familiarized students with an important social science methodology - content analysis; and has a secondary yet very important outcome of familiarizing students with current candidates and their various platforms. The strength of this exercise is that it allows the instructor to emphasize any of the above areas depending on the goals of the course. This exercise has been tested with positive outcomes in research methods courses, courses on political sociology as well as social stratification courses.
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