Sunday, June 23, 2013
Poli Sci? Really?
The Times probably didn’t intend to make this point, but sometimes it trips over something good. Wise and worldly readers, has anyone out there seen a poli sci boom in a community college setting?
Poli Sci was one inter-connected with economics, similar to how physics and mathematics were inter-connected. Some students that don't pass the muster for econ may find enjoyment in political science. Similar themes, less math, and more discussion.
On your point about theory versus practice, I know a pol.sci. BA who went on to a major government position. That could be the difference between Policy (BA or MA with or without a law degree) and Theory (PhD) that you allude to.
At Yale, there could be selection bias just in who they recruit based on some idea about what is good for the Yale brand. Just for grins, I counted 48 pol.sci. profs and 44 english profs at Yale. However, many of the very large number of Asst Profs could be glorified post docs.
Apropos the second comment, there did seem to be a few Yale Asst Profs with an interest in analytics.
Poli sci is the biggest major at my uni, but probably because it's the gut major-- once you've dropped out of enough other majors, you land in poli sci and then don't drop out of school.
Another possible explanation for the high number of political science majors at Yale may also have something to do with the phenomenon of double majors, especially at elite colleges and universities. At the fairly high ranked school I'm at, many if not most students are double majoring and it seems that for many, poli sci is the second major. Elite schools seem to be bending over backwards to ensure that students can now major in two (sometimes related, sometimes not) disciplines and still graduate in four years and many of the technical fields (e.g. engineering) are actually encouraging their students to pursue liberal arts programs to improve writing and whatnot.
1) Poli-Sci still acts as a conduit for Law School, and law school apps at Yale are certainly not in decline. You noted it correctly that they tend to largely apply/get accepted to T14 schools.
2) A lot of kiddos do IS and do poli sci as a second.
3) There are some pretty cool and well known professors working in poli sci and poli sci itself also functions as sort of a 'politics/governance' major for a lot of people who are interested in working in DC.
4) It's a super-flexible major, with a lot of classes in the department being double or triple assigned to different departments, making it very easy to double major in poli sci or do major in it while doing things you really like.
5) Politics in general is a big deal on campus and so poli sci, which at Yale has simultaneously a heavy quant focus while still maintaining a lot of quality in the study of politics, attracts a ton of people.
Class flexibility is a huge virtue and very few kids use their major as training in that field. The idea that's sold on campus is that you get skills from whatever you study, and that the analytical skills in your classes come in service to your extracurricular activities, which are actually a better guide of your future professional career than your particular major.
I was probably one of the few people in my friend group that thought of themselves as an academic studying a particular field (Religious Studies then History) and even I didn't end up in graduate school (teaching HS instead), which more closely aligned to a lot of education advocacy stuff I did on the side (plus some teacher prep classes I did because of my course flexibility).
But I agree that Poli Sci is attractive for the global studies student, the politically-minded student, the pre-law types, etc. A lot of them also do a significant concentration in Economics because they are interested in "international political economy." I believe this thinking is rooted in the "I want to have job options with global organizations after graduation, but too much economics/math will cause my brain to explode."