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Studying Politics Through Stories

March 27, 2017

Scott Abernathy

Scott Abernathy
Scott Abernathy

Department of Political Science Professor Scott Abernathy recently published American Government: Stories of a Nation. This important textbook on American government, according to Abernathy, “begins and ends with one central premise: our stories matter.” Politics involves people from many backgrounds, struggling to make their voices heard. Real people telling their stories reflect our ideals, choices, and collective experiences as a nation. By tuning into these voices Abernathy shows how our diverse ideas shape the way we participate and behave, the laws we live by, and the challenges we face.

Professor Abernathy, an expert on American education policy, wrote this book with an eye on one of the most important parts of his job, teaching students and providing them with the tools to help make their own voices stronger, reasoned, and informed. “Stories matter to our teaching,” says Abernathy, “not only by encouraging students to read and understand the material, but also by bringing the diversity of students' lived experiences into the conversations.” Not only will students see themselves reflected in the pages, but they will come to understand that they too are strategic players in American politics with voices that matter.

Each chapter of American Government features real stories illustrating how the American political system is the product of strategies, calculations, and miscalculations of countless individuals. For example, Chapter 7 (Public Opinion) explores key debates about the stability and impact of American public opinion through an exploration of the shooting death of Michael Brown by a law-enforcement officer in Ferguson, Missouri. 

“Our students are confronting difficult issues,” Abernathy emphasizes, “such as the treatment of African-American men by the law enforcement system, sexual violence on college campuses, the silencing of voices based upon students' political views, and discrimination against Americans based upon sexual identity or disability.” His new book will help teachers all across the country help students deal with these difficult issues and the challenges that follow in their wake.