Teaching Political Science at a Community College: Resource Set One
Helen Chang, Hostos Community College, City University of New York
While much of the course content in Introduction to American Government and Politics courses centers on the federal government and the federal level, there is a common saying in American politics, “All politics is local”. This phrase summarizes the principle that politicians must pay attention to the everyday needs of their constituents and that voters care about the issues that affect them the most deeply, which are often local concerns and issues like affordable housing, schools, and employment. To help students connect and visualize American politics to their own communities and potentially increase their civic engagement, students use their own local knowledge and experiences to map their neighborhoods or boroughs.
In Part 1 of this assignment, students use Google My Maps to create an annotated community map of important landmarks, organizations, and institutions in their neighborhoods or borough. Then in Part 2, students then write a short paper that asks them to introduce their community to a reader who may not be familiar, analyze an issue area in their community, reflect on their community’s assets, and propose recommendations for development or reform in their community.
Students are also asked to complete a pre and post survey on Civic Engagement at the start and end of the semester to assess any changes in their civic engagement. This survey uses a 7-point scale attitude and behavior questions from Dolittle and Faul (2013) along with Dr. Chang’s own open-ended questions.