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Political Science professors notice difficulty when teaching

May 9, 2019

Since the presidential election of 2016, the department chair and a professor of political science, Professor Neil Kraus, has noticed that he has had to approach talking about politics in his classes differently.

“It’s a lot more challenging than it used to be,” Kraus said. “People are so entrenched in their views that having a discussion, really at all, has become much more difficult.”

Kraus has been teaching at the University of Wisconsin River Falls since 2005, but he’s recently had to change the way he teaches. He states that in society, in families and among friends, controversial subjects tend to be avoided. “It’s always been difficult. They’ve always said the two things you should never discuss around family is politics and religion. I think now that is even more true than ever,” Kraus stated. “Politics has always been a tough thing to talk about with people who differ from you. But now, it’s just so much more so.”

Kraus believes that approaching the subject of politics in the classroom has gotten significantly more difficult. “Think from the perspective of somebody who is teaching; you have to plan things out a little more in terms of how you are going to ask questions, the kinds of questions you are going to ask, and how you are going to try to get students to participate.”

Recently, Kraus has encouraged students to be informed, but to avoid biases. The rise of social media has aided Kraus and his fellow teachers greatly.

Davida Alperin is a Political Science and Gender Studies professor who has been teaching political science at the university of Wisconsin River Falls since 1991. Alperin believes that social media has played a large role in the ability to discuss politics.

With the simple click of a button, thousands upon thousands of people know the political views of friends and family alike. Learning to read between the lines and examine what is presented on screen can be far more helpful than reading the headlines and quickly clicking the share button.

“It’s a constant sort of battle. There are a lot of people making a lot of money at the battle and then – the question is – what happens to us as a result?” Alperin asked.

While Alperin believes there are good media sources, it takes effort to find them. “It’s a question on whether or not we want to do it. There are ways to get good information, some of them traditional, but I think if we look with those sources we can get decent information.”

Alperin suggests that those interested in “asking the hard questions” need to put the effort in to become informed.