Election 2012: Your Free Ticket to a Popular Stanford Course

Last Tuesday night, Stanford University kicked off a big course on the 2012 Election. 600 students packed into a crowded auditorium, filling every seat, waiting for the course to begin. Led by David Kennedy (Pulitzer Prize-winning historian), Rob Reich (Political Science, Stanford), and James Steyer (CEO, Common Sense Media), the course brings together “experts from Stanford’s faculty, along with distinguished participants in and analysts of American politics.” And, together, they’re examining major issues at stake in the election — foreign policy, the economy, the Supreme Court, campaign financing, campaign strategy, etc.

The first week featured conversations with two seasoned campaign strategists — Mark McKinnon and Chris Lehane — who put away their daggers and had an unusually civil conversation about the Obama-Romney contest, and the state of American politics more generally. Also joining the conversation was Gary Segura, a Stanford expert in polling, who offered up some firm predictions about the election.

Although the course is filled to capacity, you can attend the course virtually on iTunes and YouTube for free. (It will be added to our collection of 500 Free Courses Online.) A complete list of upcoming speakers can be found here.

Full disclosure: This course was partly organized by Stanford Continuing Studies where I happily spend my working days. If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, you should check out our amazing program.

 


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  • Doug Hamilton

    I viewed one hour of Election 2012. I could not bear the entire footage. The panelists talked about projecting a candidate as a person the public can “trust”. I find this to be a very nebulous criteria for the election of the person to be the President of the United States. Trust is a very loose term. Trust the candidate on what? Trust is not a solid argument but careful packaging.

    The one thing missing from all the panelists was affiliation with a candidate based on “truth”. Truth also has many meanings and different shades but is easier to quantify. The candidate can be truthful about lying or truthful about their own veracity. Truth is easier to distinguish. None of the panelists was concerned about truth; only their projection of “trust”.

    The panel was composed of serial academicians and political operatives. The academicians show no real world experience in their CV’s and seem to gravitate back to their school of origin. Doesn’t seem like a very wide range of experience.

    The panelists may be right on the election given the ignorance and lack of thinking skills of the general public. We’ll have to wait and see. The general public is in “bread” and “circuses” mode. Anything free is “bread” and the “circuses” are more movies, more Las Vegas, more football, more movie stars, etc. The public cannot and do not want to be bothered with thinking about the consequences of their voting actions, if they vote at all. The political operatives know all too well the psychology of the American voter.

    I suggest that to showcase real science go to the engineering, chemistry, physics or biology departments at Stanford. I see no useful purpose for political science except to distribute propaganda. Political science is the ultimate oxymoron.

    The next venue for this panel discussion should be at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. I don’t think the audience would be quite so compliant.

  • Mike Thompson

    Doug, I haven’t watched any of this yet or know if I will.. but in regard to what you are saying – ['trust' is more important than 'truth'] initially, and then, [our obsession with bread and circuses]. This is the ‘why’ of the significance of trust over truth. You repeat yourself. I am not a political scientist but assume they are aware of “Panum et Circenses” and possess some awareness of the phenomenon of demagoguery (the manipulation of public trust for self-interest). The distinction between a political scientist and the rest of us, perhaps – we have the liberty of being outraged while the political scientist is resigned to the awkward reality that democracy remains plagued to this day with these issues. Political scientists are just the messenger?
    Voter ‘apathy’, to me, is simply the observation that people have other, more fascinating, pursuits than being politically engaged – trusting that important decisions are in capable hands. And to take all of these issues so seriously only to be nullified by some campaign afflicted zombie, what is the point then? I would rather browse those other departments too, but for me, STEM is my bread and circuses. I resign to vote anyways while clinging to these reservations, ha.

  • Imani Burrell

    That was excellent! I don’t agree with abolishing the electoral college, but the point about the Senate was great!

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