Politics can sometimes seem the anathema of our time. With connotations such as corruption and greed, the ability of politics to create resilient, egalitarian and peaceful societies seems to be lost to us. Even the NCERT Grade 11 political science textbook devotes part of its initial chapter to explaining why politics has such a bad reputation and why it needs to change. How then can the study of politics help change its image and create engaged and participatory citizens?
In an increasingly polarized world, divided into echo chambers with cyberbalkanization, understanding politics becomes essential to finding reason within the unknown. Political science covers a broad spectrum – from local democratic processes to global citizenship. The topics and issues covered in the topic can help learners navigate difficult conversations and socio-political contexts.
From poles to perspective
Politics teaches us right and wrong depending on which side you see them from. He crosses the gray, drawing on the complexities of the human condition to conceive right from wrong. Take the example of the Cold War. What appears to be a clear conflict between communism and capitalism goes much deeper than that. Classroom discussions and research can reveal the complexity of arenas of conflict, the difficulty in defining conflict as merely ideological, the geostrategic realities of the time, and the effects of nuclear deterrence. Each of these dimensions will have different layers depending on the point of view. The fall of the USSR can be attributed in part to undemocratic structures. While post-Soviet conflicts were blamed on “shock therapy”, the lack of strong democratic systems being built. On which side then is the fault of the ensuing violence?
It may seem that politics is about taking extreme positions, a student of the matter will realize how untenable this is. The tilts to the left, right or center can come off when you start to untangle the layers. When looking at globalization from a political perspective, it can be easy to assume that the right wing promotes open markets and will therefore be open to globalization. But the right also favors cultural conservatism, from which a globally heterogeneous environment can deviate. So how do you decide which side of the aisle you want to be on? And on which side of the aisle does “the other” belong?
These examples illustrate the critical dimension of political science which makes it an important subject of study. It helps to build and understand perspective, which is especially important for young learners. With multidimensional perspectives, students grow up to be empathetic individuals and global citizens. The subject teaches them to refrain from rushing into judgment and instead to debate, discuss and deliberate. It is important to stress here that much of this perspective building occurs in the classroom discourse. The pedagogy that we encourage in our school, for example, uses tools such as the Socratic method to emphasize that no point is necessarily the “right” one. Instead, the emphasis is on developing and discussing the multiple points to broaden understanding.
Contexts, concepts and critical thinking
21st the skills of the century focus on creating conscious learners who are able to think analytically and critically. They examine the nuances of the issues and assess through further analysis and questioning. Political science as a subject cultivates these same skills. The theories of the state, justice, liberty, equality all attempt to explore important concepts that affect our daily existence. When discussing the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression, for example, students apply their understanding of liberty and liberty. Limitations on liberty arise from arguments such as the principle of harm. Conceptually teaching and learning is the foundation of the subject, as the same concept of freedom can extend across generations, from slavery to sedition.
The subject also shapes thinkers and citizens of the world. It spans across nations and by focusing on concepts it can delve into distinct contexts. For example, when exploring citizen-state relations, one can examine the Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality in the United States of America, as well as the protests against the Special Anti-Robbery Squad in Nigeria. These two movements from 2020 are contextual to their time and their region. However, both can be studied to understand power, authority, and legitimacy.
21st skills and knowledge of the century
This capacity of political science to be global and local, contemporary and anachronistic is unique. It distinguishes students of the subject as logical thinkers who also understand human emotions and motivation. Much of this engagement also depends on collaborative learning and personal learning journeys. In our classrooms, both are used to give students the choice to explore concepts using personal projects and areas of research. Learning through group work also increases students’ voices, their ability to act and creates better team players and future leaders.
The subject is an integral part of 21st century of learning. Built within its program and its pedagogy are elements of 21st century of teaching and learning. Students of political science excel not only in fields directly related to the subject, but in various fields, given their ability to hold balanced opinions and to work in different contexts. It also makes the subject an excellent choice for transdisciplinary learning, as its concepts and ideas can easily be transferred to other areas. Areas such as bioethics, environmentalism, space exploration and colonization also require an understanding of politics, skills and knowledge. Any student who has the nuanced and multifaceted understanding that the subject provides will stand out from the crowd and lead change.
The opinions expressed above are those of the author.
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