Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Teaching Comparative (a thought)

Teaching comparative government and politics is a complex process. Once in a while I have in insight into that process. Here's one of them.

I often had to remind my students that comparative politics was a political science course and not a history course. Nearly all of my students were veterans of history courses where they had learned well how to do historical analysis.

Some of them wanted to continue to do that kind of analysis in this political science course. They were usually disappointed in the results. I had to remind them that in comparative government and politics, analysis involved less history and more politics.

Thus, when answering a question like, "How did the UK end up with a coalition government in 2010?" the analysis should not begin with an explanation of what happened at Runnymede in 1215. At most, a political science analysis might begin with Margaret Thatcher's "revolution." More likely, an explanation should begin with economic woes, the war in Iraq, and public disillusionment with Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. However, a credible answer might begin with the performance of Nick Clegg in the first-ever televised candidates' debate during the most recent election.

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

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