Wednesday, December 04, 2002

I Was A Teenage PoliSci Major-until I turned 20 just before starting my senior year. Patrick Ruffini has a nice rememberance of John DiIulio and the Penn political science department and gets all of it here
You have to endure a few lectures of Poli Sci 1 to appreciate just how truly alien the academic study of politics is when stacked up against how politics and campaigns really work. You'll encounter numerous buzzwords (rational choice, tragedy of the commons) and quantitative tomes on essentially unquantifiable phenomena. After my first freshman semester, I realized that the theory of politics had so little to do with reality that I decided to minimize my exposure to the field, in favor of the anecdote- and fact-rich realism of history, the veritable queen of the humanities. So seldom did political science have anything substantive to say about how the world really worked that the most technically advanced lesson I had to learn in my four years in the field was Ed Rendell's lecture on the mechanics of soft money. And too often, I saw faculty who taught about politics as it was really practiced marginalized.
PoliSci is the study of government, not the study of politics, theory rather than practice. I learned more about politics from hanging out in Democratic county meetings, rubber-chicken fundraisers and state conventions as a teenager (my dad was a Democratic activist at the time) than I did in eleven PoliSci classes in college. Go read the whole Ruffini article, it's good.

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