State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

Unexpected problem for poly-sci profs: how to teach about Trump

Written by Katie Meyer, Capitol Bureau Chief | Sep 1, 2016 1:13 AM

Some politics professors have struggled to decide whether it's appropriate to bring personal opinions into teaching about Trump. (Photo by AP)

(Harrisburg) -- This election season has frequently been called unusual, at the very least, and that's due in no small part to the unexpected candidacy of Republican Donald Trump.

The unprecedented nature of the 2016 race is making some professors wonder--what's the right way to teach students about Trump?

Speaking on WITF's Smart Talk, Stephen Medvic, a professor of government at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, said in the past he has always avoided personal biases while teaching.

But he said he's never seen a campaign like Trump's, and that changes things.

"If someone comes to the conclusion that the way he's run his campaign for the last 14, 15 months suggests that there might be some real threats to democratic norms and democratic principles, the question is then, does that person have an obligation to express that?" Medvic said.

Medvic said he thinks in this case, some personal opinion is permissible.

"Whether it's blacklisting various media outlets, encouraging violence at his rallies, saying our election system is rigged---those things raise really serious concerns," he said.

Other professors aren't so sure--David O'Connell, a political science professor at Dickinson College in Carlisle, said such judgements can skew discussions.

"To say that Trump is the most dangerous candidate--I mean to me, that's already somewhat of an already normative judgement," O'Connell said. "I mean maybe Hillary is actually the more dangerous candidate."

Both professors agreed they wouldn't be structuring classes entirely around the 2016 race.

O'Connell said it's more important for students to understand elections in general--not just this one.

Published in State House Sound Bites

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