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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Comments (3)
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  • Doug Hamilton says:

    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 says:

    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 says:

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

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