Major Misconceptions: The politics of political science

“You must want to be a politician,” or “you must know everything about current events” — these are common assumptions you might have about political science majors.

While all students face certain misconceptions from people unfamiliar with their majors, political science students often seem to find themselves forced to defend their degree in the atmosphere of the increased national polarization of the last few years.

Senior political science major Kenneth Cheek said that people often assume that the political science major focuses on modern politics.

“The big [misconception] is the connection between the field of political science and the media’s presentation of modern politics. I get barraged with questions about ‘What do you think about the president?’ [and] ‘What do you think about political parties?’” he said.

While it might be a valid question for someone unfamiliar with political science, the presidential question often limits the use of a political science degree to modern politics.

“I don’t necessarily know the news any better than anyone else because of [a political science background]. I don’t know any more about modern politics than anyone else really,” Cheek said.

These students also find themselves facing a question that college students are constantly plagued with: What do you plan to do after you graduate?

Elizabeth Inman, senior political science minor and SGA Senator at Large, said that a similar fixation on modern politics fuels assumptions about her career goals.

“One of the misconceptions that I hear the most about being a poli sci major or minor is that the only two career options that accompany that degree are being the President of the US or being a teacher,” she wrote via email.

“It’s one of those degrees where people go, ‘Well what is the job?’” Cheek said.

Inman said that people tend to assume political science is an arbitrary degree that provides students with an interesting experience rather than job prospects.

“I have heard not only from people outside of the program, but even within the program, is that a degree in political science will not get you anywhere in life and that people who are in the program are only in it for the ‘experience,’” she said.

Finding themselves in a defensive battle for their degree doesn’t discourage these students, however. Rather, they want people unfamiliar with the degree to understand the what and why of politics before coming to certain conclusions.

“It can be really hard for anyone to understand why anyone does anything and people want to know why, and I don’t think a lot of people have the tools to look into the ‘why’ of politics.” Cheek said.

“Overall, I feel that people just need to learn more about the poli sci program and the doors that it opens before making final judgements,” Inman said.

Photo caption: Classroom located in Columbine Hall on central campus. Photo by Taylor Villalpando.