Teaching Trump 101


President Trump’s unconventional approach to running the White House presents a challenge to political science departments on KELOLAND college campuses.    

Some say Trump thrives on chaos and controversy, but that’s a management strategy that doesn’t translate well in the classroom.  

Many Trump critics say the president plays fast and loose with the facts by making unsubstantiated claims such as his allegation of massive voter fraud during the 2016 election. Yet political science students are taught to evaluate the data and the evidence, and that can be where Trump trips them up.  

Donald Trump’s presidency is far from textbook when it comes to political science. Some might say Trump doesn’t go by the book at all.

“He’s kind of in a field all his own, thus far.  We’ll kind of have to see how he stacks up compared to other presidents in the past,”  SDSU professor Lisa Hager said.

Hager says Trump’s presidency has been a jarring introduction to political science for many of her students.

“They always have quite a few questions because their reference point is the Obama Administration and we all know that Obama and Trump are two vastly different presidents,” Hager said.

Hager says critical thinking becomes all the more important in a political environment tainted by questionable claims on the truth.

“I can honestly say I never thought I’d be saying the phrases like ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts’ to my students.  Generally, when you’re talking about the media, you’re talking about framing and those sorts of issues, nothing like some of this news might not even be based on any real fact whatsoever,” Hager said.

While Trump’s style may befuddle many students of political science, Hager says Trump’s tweets also help him connect with a generation of academics who’ve grown up with social media.

“I think it’s now a little more difficult to be somewhat insulated from politics.  It’s not something you can say, ‘I don’t find this interesting, I’m just going to avoid it,’ now it’s kind of out there front and center,” Hager said.

The Trump effect is showing in enrollment at SDSU.  Hager says the political science department saw an increase in students right after Trump won the election.

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