Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Science, students, and activism

One of the most frustrating things for me about the current political landscape is the lack of participation by younger voters (18-24). This is a group of people who will be profoundly affected for years to come by decisions that politicians make, but who have not connected themselves to the political process. Imagine how different the political landscape would be if 18 year olds voted in the same percentages as 70 year olds.

So I decided to try to do what I can to influence my students. My theory is that if they get involved now, they're likelier to stay involved. In the fall semester, I gave them extra credit if they (a) voted and (b) wrote a paper about science and politics. This semester, I made a required part of the course a paper about an issue of public interest that had important connections to science and then to spread the word to some community outside the class. Given the chance to care, the students did an excellent job - they wrote on global warming, stem cell research, banning smoke in public places, the spread of communicative diseases - heck, even the injuries caused by wearing a backpack over one shoulder. They wrote to their senators, the President of the University, letters to the editor, and letters to professional organizations. Their political opinions don't always line up with mine, which is fine - I just want them to think and participate.


I'm Not Ned said...

Excellent job!

Perhaps if we had teachers like you the Young Repubes wouldn't have been so influential, Reagan wouldn't have run rough-shod over our future and we'd have more choices than either Walmart or Target. :^(

schmidlap said...

Right on, doc.

Get any scary, anti-evolution nutters in the bunch?

drmagoo said...

Not in this bunch, although I've had them.