The Department of Political Science is committed to a vision of undergraduate education that emphasizes asking students to read, think and write about the world around them. We believe in liberal education - education in what it means to be a human being and in the relationship of human beings to the material world, to other human beings and to the transcendent.
Without this type of education citizens cannot speak with one another in a friendly manner about important things. Without this kind of education students learn how to do things, but not why they do them or whether they should do them. Aristotle differentiated between the education of the slave and the education of a free citizen. The slave was taught a trade. The citizen was taught to think not only about how to solve practical problems, but also how and when to ask herself questions and how to discover a standard according to which one can measure the incredible variety of opinions in this world.
Jobs are important and, yes, the market does drive career demand. But, remember, the market does not care about hearts and minds and souls and the market really does not care about democracy. In democratic politics freedom is not an end. It is a means to a far more important end, to becoming a flourishing human being in both a metaphysical and a physical sense. Liberal education does not impart knowledge; it teaches a way of life that realizes, like Thomas Mann’s character Joseph, that truth is “endlessly far” and that no human being will ever own it. This kind of education commits one to a search, not an answer. And it prepares one to participate in democratic politics—to being a citizen rather than a subject.
That does not mean our students leave here unprepared to earn a living. Political science majors get hired and make good starting salaries in a variety of jobs. However, we also want them to understand that how they live their lives is just as important as how they earn a living. As a department we seek to help students explore a wide range of political thinking about comparative government, American government, political philosophy, public administration and international relations. Our majors learn to:
- Explain the importance of the search for the proper role of the individual within the political community;
- Demonstrate the investigative skills needed to address new problems and find meaningful solutions;
- Demonstrate the analytical and communication skills required to analyze ideas and use them in explanatory and persuasive arguments;
- Demonstrate the ability to think critically about key political concepts;
- Apply material studied to contemporary issues; and
- Demonstrate understanding of the importance of diversity in understanding key political concepts.