The blogosphere has become ubiquitous in tight circles of political pundits and analysts, and is growing in popularity thanks to sites like this one. But I believe that blogs can serve as a great outlet for college students to voice their concerns and opinions in a mediated environment that is often saturated with viewpoints from established players.
In my "Media and Politics" class at the University of Delaware, I require students to blog twice a semester. They must identify a current issue or event, then examine it through the lens of a communication science scholar. In other words, it's not an assignment asking for their personal opinions on issues; rather it is a conduit through which they can develop a more nuanced understanding of politics and media. Instead of speaking through an ideological lens, which often results in biased interpretation of events, these students are advised to dig a little deeper and examine how and why media coverage of politics, especially in the U.S., is the way it is.
In the coming weeks, I will be posting excerpts from some of my students' favorite student blogs this semester. I'm calling it my "Blog Blog" project. Because part of my teaching strategy aims to give students a voice and to empower them to be effective and active citizens, I see these blogs as a safe space for students to practice these skills. The blogs not only demonstrate the ability of college students to think very critically about political issues and problems, but it can also begin a discussion across universities about what it means to be a politically engaged college student.
This blog post is both meaningful to me and somewhat ironic, as it was only five years ago that the University of Delaware ranked fourth out of 361 schools in the Princeton Review's "Election, What Election?" category. Since then, UD has established the Center for Political Communication, where we now have nearly five dozen students minoring in political communication, and numerous students engaging in undergraduate and graduate research on the topic. We have had well-known UD alumni speak and get involved on campus, including New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Obama strategist David Plouffe, John McCain's 2008 campaign strategist and cable news contributor Steve Schmidt, and of course, Vice President Joe Biden.
I don't see our students as politically apathetic. I see them as engaged, excited and energized about the political goings-on around campus, as well as the upcoming 2012 election. I am lucky that my students take this blog assignment seriously, and so many of their posts are eye-opening to other students as well as to their professor. The Huffington Post College page is a great outlet for these voices, because students and faculty at other institutions can respond to these blogs and offer insights of their own.
I look forward to engaging in a discussion with faculty and students about the role of blogging in politics, as well as the ideas my students present in their own blogs.