Political Science Sucks at Marketing

Freakonomics recently ran a poll on which social science should be eliminated. Political science came in second, with 29.3% of the vote. (Sociology won–more accurately, lost–the poll with 49.1%. Strangely, despite this being Freakonomics, psychology had the fewest votes for elimination.)

Here is one of the comments a reader used to justify his vote:

Caleb B: “Poli Sci should die. It’s only a major for lawyers, lobbyists, and politicians. We need fewer of each.”

The sad part is that I think Caleb’s comments reflect the public’s general consensus of political science. As a discipline, we co-opted the undergraduate lawyer, lobbyist, and politician types so enough students would take our classes and we would continue to get funding from our universities. We tailored our syllabi accordingly to do this. Thus, like a vicious cycle, we keep dumbing down our undergrad classes and promulgating Caleb’s impression of political science.

It is our fault. If we as a discipline spent more time marketing real political science, I don’t think the House would have voted to cut National Science Foundation funding from departments.

One response to “Political Science Sucks at Marketing

  1. Caleb’s impression of poli sci is clearly off base, but you’re right: poli sci has brought this impression upon itself by tailoring undergrad work to pre-law students. This has the added effect of bringing lots of people to graduate study in poli sci, like me, who are woefully unprepared for what poli sci actually is. Unless an undergrad poli sci program actually provides a good amount of instruction in theory and methodology, its name should be changed to just “politics” or “government.” It’s more honest branding, and would help poli sci’s wider reputation… as well as its grad school attrition rate!

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