STEM and Politics - Before and After Tuesday, November 8, 2016

  • 13 Oct 2016
  • 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM


Registration is closed

Hosted by: Chris Arney, Janice Ballou, and Frank Wattenberg

Chris Arney and Frank Wattenberg are members of the Department of Mathematical Sciences at the United States Military Academy. The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the United States Military Academy, the United States Army, or the United States Government.

Webinar Date: Thursday, October 13, 2016

Webinar Time: 1-2pm (Eastern)

Many of us in the United States and around the world are aghast at the tone of this year's United States presidential election. We are struggling to understand how and why our politics have reached the point that all that we hold dear about our country is in jeopardy. As STEM educators we have an enormous opportunity and responsibility. Our courses can help the debate in several ways:

  • Many of the most controversial topics--for example, climate change--involve the STEM disciplines. We can help inform the debate. Perhaps it is not too late to bring reason to public discourse.

  • Framing public policy questions in scientific terms can often lower the temperature of the debate. Perhaps spreadsheets can replace name-calling.

  • Perhaps most importantly, as scientists we can also study elections and public policy debate themselves. How did we get in this mess? How can we get out of it?

This year's election season has sparked considerable hand-wringing and even soul-searching by professional journalists. Many worry that the quest for objectivity has enforced a false equivalency in their reporting. As educators we face some of the same problems as we seek to respect the opinions of all our students. In addition, our problems are compounded by the fact that we give our students grades.

We will focus on scientific modeling of how voters evaluate different positions on issues, how they decide for whom to vote, how candidates appeal to voters, and on what we can learn from surveys and polling about ourselves and our politics. We recommend taking the Pew Research Center's brief Political Typology Quiz before the webinar.

This webinar will be largely discussion based. The organizers will briefly introduce some of the ideas below, but will spend most of the time talking about how these ideas can transform our classrooms and help shape a better and more civil future.
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