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Political Science Abandons Its Soul

Man may be a political animal, but he does not seem so interested in political science anymore.

The number of political science and government degrees conferred across America fell 4.5%  between 2008 and 2013, but at few institutions has this trend been more pronounced than Stanford. Stanford graduated 74 political science majors in the 2011 academic year, 61 in 2013, and just 47 in 2015. By extrapolation, Stanford likely has only slightly more than 200 political science majors overall, a mere 2.9% of its undergraduate student body. The department, home to excellent scholars like Morris Fiorina, David Brady, and Scott Sagan, responded by instituting drastic changes. Desperate to maintain its appeal to Stanford students, the department coarsened its teaching of politics, seizing low but not so solid ground. The new major requirements took effect last September.

The political science major now offers five concentrations: Justice and the Law, Political Economy & Development, Data Science, Elections, Representation & Governance, and International Relations (only the latter track is preserved). Department chair Judith Goldstein explained to InsideHigherEd that the decline in declared students “caused us to look more critically at what we were offering our students, both as pedagogy but also in response to their own views (and that of their parents) that they see a job at the end of their education.” This justification reveals the major’s new guiding principle: a marketplace view of education.

Read the rest over at the Stanford Review.


Elliot is a sophomore from Canada who loves America. In addition to his role as News Editor of the Review, he is the President of the Alexander Hamilton Society and the VP of Cardinal for Israel. To sponsor him for US citizenship, please offer him a job at esk@stanford.edu, or marry him.

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