Critical thinking and public policy – the power of standing up for what you believe in

Students who study political science will gain insight into today’s complex political landscape, but how do they apply what they’ve learned to daily life? Interested in the ways in which political science students have thought critically about public policy and engaged with government and social movements, we held the “What’s Your Story?” essay contest. The contest was inspired by Scott Abernathy’s American Government: Stories of a Nation, a textbook that enhances student learning by teaching the nuts and bolts of political science through memorable real-life stories. Tied to real politics, the stories enable students to develop their critical thinking skills as they apply principles learned in class to real-world examples of political action and political choices.

Kayla Renee Greene, a Georgia State University student and one of this year’s winners, wrote about her mother’s incarceration and death sentence, which she attempted to appeal by testifying to the state parole board. Check out Kayla’s powerful story here, and read on for her insights on how to engage with opposing viewpoints and why college students should stand up for the politics that matter to them.

Q. In your opinion, how can college students support the politics they’re passionate about?

In my opinion, college students should support the politics that they’re passionate about because it’s important for college students to feel like they have a voice. I always encourage people to stand up for what they’re passionate about and what they believe in because if they don’t, who else will?

Q. Many factors, such as our experiences, religion, family, etc., can shape our political attitudes. How can people challenge themselves to understand opposing viewpoints to promote respectful discussion and collaboration?

I believe that it’s important to remember that everyone comes from a different background. Other people are not going to have the exact same experiences as you, so I believe that when you meet someone that has an opposing viewpoint, it’s important to remember that their life experiences have shaped them to believe in the things they believe in. If we all believed in the same things, the world would be a very boring place. I think we just have to remember that different experiences shape people in different ways, and that doesn’t mean that someone is wrong or right for  what they believe in.

Q. How can teachers encourage their students to think critically about public policy issues?

Every professor that I’ve had while at Georgia State University challenges us to critically think about policy issues. When we are speaking about one side of a policy and how it may impact people, my professors always challenge us to think about the flip side and how those people feel.

Q. You mentioned that your mother graduated from a theological program while she was in prison. Some may not know that such correctional programming was available to offenders. In what ways can people be made more aware of these programs and of offenders’ desire to give back to the community?

Most prisons in Georgia have vocational programs for inmates, so that they can learn a useful trade that they can hopefully use upon reentry to society. The theological program is through Candler School of Theology at Emory University here in Atlanta. People are more than welcome to speak with someone from Candler about the work that they do through the theology program.

Read the essay from our second contest winner, and other notable entries, here, and learn more about American Government: Stories of a Nation here.


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