GW classes follow political campaigns

GW professors are utilizing the University’s location to educate students about politics and government as the November elections draw near.

Sarah Binder, an assistant professor of political science, said she begins each class with a discussion on political parties and interest groups. She said these discussions focus on political news related to course material in her class, Political Parties and Interest Groups.

We’ve been discussing developments in the presidential and congressional campaigns and elections, Binder said. I find this is a good opportunity for students to raise issues of interest to them in the news and to relate them to broader themes in the study of politics.

Binder said she uses examples from current political campaigns to illustrate the themes and theories in her lectures.

In my lectures (last) week about the conditions under which third parties are more or less successful, I’ve tried to draw from the Reform Party and Buchanan developments wherever possible to test political science theories and explanations, she said.

The class discussions help students understand and think critically about patterns in contemporary politics, Binder said.

Professor Paul Brewer said he brings in guest speakers to illustrate the topics discussed in his courses, Public Opinion and Political Socialization and Television and Politics.

I’ve scheduled Michael Dimock from the Pew Center for the People and the Press, he said. Given that the Pew Center’s studies lately have focused heavily on the election, I’m expecting him to speak on this topic. I’ve also scheduled a speaker, Michael Moran from MSNBC, who is going to tell us about how the media have been working to cover the elections.

Brewer says Television and Politics is structured around the presidential election.

We’ve talked about the `RATS’ ad and its alleged subliminal message, Brewer said. Over the next few weeks we’ll look at clips from the upcoming debates and the networks’ coverage of the elections.

Senior Elika Naraghi, who is enrolled in The American Presidency, a political science course, said the class is a good setting for students to formulate political ideas.

In the beginning of each session of this class, a student presents a newspaper article about the upcoming presidential election for the class to discuss.

Topics range from the effect of oil prices on presidential candidate Al Gore’s campaign to the upcoming presidential debates, Naraghi said.

Each student will be assigned a candidate and an issue and will be responsible for reporting to the class where the candidate stands on their particular issue, said professor Mary Fitzgerald, who teaches The American Presidency.

Fitzgerald said she aims to get students familiar with the candidates so they can make educated decisions when voting in the November election.

Students are sharing information, Naraghi said. The discussions are a mix of moderate, liberal and conservative voices.

Other departments also offer hands-on experience with the 2000 elections.

Al May, associate professor and director of the GW’s journalism program, said he uses the election as a primary focus of his Campaign Reporting course.

We all try to look for ways to make the classroom real, May said.

May’s students each write stories on a selected congressional race.

Sean Aday, assistant professor of media and public affairs, said he changed his syllabus to use the election as a teaching tool.

In Mass Media and Society, Aday uses the 2000 elections to complement his lectures on election coverage, political advertising, debate coverage and the shift in political coverage from print media to cable television and the internet, he said.

Students said they enjoy the real-world application of class concepts.

I think that it would be a shame if we did not take advantage of the opportunity to study the presidential elections, especially since the opportunity only arises once every four years, said sophomore Rich Howard, who is taking Aday’s course.

Because students in his class are generally interested in politics, Aday said he takes advantage of their interests, which leads to productive class discussions.

(Classroom discussions) make you think and define your own views and ideologies, Naraghi said.

-Sarah Lechner contributed to this report.

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