Monday, December 10, 2012

What UGA Students (Don't) Know

There's a story on The Red & Black site about what UGA students know, or don't know, about current events. Two of my Grady colleagues are quoted at length. Are they right? Is there a lack of current events or political knowledge among the best and brightest that is the UGA student body? Does it even matter?

I'll try not to go all PhDweeb on what is my major research area and either support or correct my learned colleagues. Below, though, a few points to consider:
  • Why keep up? There's an argument to be made for rational ignorance. Is the cost of keeping up worth the benefit you receive?   
  • College students have other things on their minds. Yes, their studies, but most likely other, more interesting things than the latest spat between Dems and GOPers. Makes sense that current events knowledge might rank as a lower priority.
  • Are they really any less knowledgeable? Never extrapolate from a small, biased sample (your class). The research shows young folks have always sucked at political knowledge tests. Always. I'm not sure it's any better or worse today. Evidence beyond the anecdotal?
  • Some majors are different. Yes, journalism students need to be informed of current events. Less so, other majors, though I can make good arguments why students in economics, etc., should be keeping up.
  • Democratic theory relies on an informed public.  I've used that line myself in a lot of published papers, and it's true -- to a degree. Problem is, choice plays a role here. We have so many other media choices now, other ways to occupy our time, and it's never been easier to escape the news. Marcus Prior has a terrific book on this subject. Strongly recommended. Unfortunately, we live in an era where obligation and responsibility don't sell.
As you can tell from above, rattled off the top of my head, it's probably best I wasn't interviewed for the story. I can go on and on and on ...

1 comment:

Andrea G said...

The thing about college students is they live in a bubble. As a recent college grad, I agree with all your points. Some years I'd check cnn every day, and other years I'd go months without checking; my quality of life never changed either way.