A year into my political science major at GW, I started wondering if this was for me. I found the courses interesting but impractical – heavy in theory, light in real-world usefulness. Most of the class discussion eventually went off the rails with the news of the day, with the topic shifting from Democratic backsliding to the Democratic primary. For Andrew, in first grade, it felt like a basic or unoriginal curriculum.
Now, as graduation approaches and in hindsight, I want to say a few words in defense of the major whose usefulness I once questioned.
GW students seem to use the political science major less as an avenue for the intellectual pursuit of the theory and social sciences behind politics, and more as a vehicle for the experiences they have outside of the classroom – and that’s fine. It allows students interested in politics to supplement their studies with real-world experience without having to spend every second juggling coursework in a way that most other majors don’t allow.
Now, that’s not to say that everyone majoring in political science is there just to check the box to study something, skim through the courses, and actually focus on what they’re doing outside of their coursework. But there are many who do. My goal is not to say it’s bad, but it’s actually a good thing.
Of course, the main point of college is to immerse yourself in a chosen course of study. The trope that wiggles your fingers and focuses on your studies is the one most college students are familiar with, but also overlooks the fact that there’s so much more to college than what you learn in the classroom. In fact, if all you do at GW is move between your room, your classes, and the library, you’re missing out.
Going to college, and in particular attending GW, opens up a whole world of new opportunities that are available only to students – securing Hillternships, internships for NGOs, working for advocacy groups, volunteering and many more. experiences unique to DC A lighter course load allows students the flexibility to fill the rest of their schedule with extracurricular activities on campus or with off-campus work – time that students would otherwise have spent in the library looking at textbooks.
GW clearly knows this too – in the fall of 2020, the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences reduced the number of major-specific credits for a bachelor’s degree in political science from 57 to 33 – almost halving the number of courses that students had to follow. Requiring only 11 non-general education courses for a major is incredibly low – for context, a political communications major requires 19 courses and an economics major requires 14 courses. In fact, it’s nearly impossible to get a degree in political science without adding another major or receiving internship credit – GW requires 120 credits in total to graduate.
The fact that it is not even possible to study political science on its own confirms that the program is only part of a complete first step towards politics and politics. Clearly, the University is doing something right, as are the thousands of students who have availed themselves of the unspoken pact to take a less rigorous course load in exchange for real-world experience in their destination field.
There was a degree to which I expected college to be a serious, bookish endeavor – without bifurcating my time between breaking books and hopping on the subway to go to a political rally with an advocacy organization. students. All of this is why I was somewhat surprised by the political science program and the political science students when I came to GW. Once I realized that was the whole point, the true value of majoring in political science became clear to me – and so I will graduate with more knowledge under my belt.
Andrew Sugrue, a senior graduate in political communication and political science, is the opinion editor.