Q: What is your name?
A: Professor S. Baron, retired professor of Political Science at SUNY Oswego
Q: Why, in your opinion is political science an important field of study?
A: Political science is important for every citizen to know. Whether they plan on being a farmer, a housewife, or even go into the political arena. We all, as citizens, have a duty to know how the system works and our responsibilities within the structure of that system. That’s right, we all have a certain set of responsibilities as citizens of this country. While many choose not to know what those duties are, that does not mean that they do not exist, or that we can claim reasonable negligence in not doing these duties.
Q: So do you feel that everyone should go in depth in their study of this field, or is just a basic knowledge sufficient?
A: Unless one plans on going to a university and engaging in deliberative discussion and inquiry, a basic knowledge is sufficient for the everyday citizen. We all do not need to know the fine tuning of every aspect of the political machine. Although, having a working knowledge of our rights to vote, our constitutional rights and privileges, as well as our right in being able to attain basic services is necessary as a member of the society. This more basic knowledge allows us to know where to find employment, and the laws that protect us on the job site. It also protects our ability to gain an education rather than being forced into the work fields too early.
Q: Would you suggest Political Science as a major for incoming students?
A: No. Political Science can be a difficult field of study for the average person. One needs a certain level of dedication to the pursuit of higher education as well. While it is a valuable field of study, many cannot obtain gainful employment with a simple Associate’s degree. Even with the Bachelor’s Degree one may find it difficult locating work in their desired field. Gaining entry into the political arena is tough and takes many years of sacrifice to get to the top echelon. If the student is seeking a quick fix to underemployment I would definitely sway them in another direction.
Q: Are there other aspects that should be considered when choosing a degree program in political science?
A: Yes. Personality plays a large role in one’s success rate in this field. Individuals who tend to excel in Political Science tend to have very outgoing personalities, and they like to take on the leadership role. These are not shy wallflowers. Rather, these are individuals who tend to excel in taking charge, setting goals and reaching them, and in aiding others in reaching the goals and dictates in their lives. Political Scientists are go-getters.
Q: So, you are saying that one should have very clear goals of where they are going and what they intend to do with this type of degree program?
A: Exactly. Many choose Political Science because they simply do not know what else to take. Their parents choose the degree program for them because they have middle of the road grades or SAT scores. There are many instances where the student actually applies for a different program of study and the college or institution does not feel they have what the program requires and offers them the political science tract. The student, many times, does not have any other alternative so they enter and take the degree in order to figure out what they want. This tends to leave a lot of people out of work and trying to juggle enormous student loan debt.
Q: Are there fields in which a Political Science degree will pay off and offer gainful employment?
A: Yes. There are many career paths where Political Science is the best possible undergraduate degree choice. If the student is wanting to go into Law, or work in state, local or federal government positions, political science studies is a definite asset. Journalism, finance, as well as international affairs are also fields that the individual will benefit from the very intense studies that Political Science offers. The key to this or any degree is to have a clear vision of where one wants to end up.If you want to go into medicine, then no, political science is not quite the choice that should be made. Although, if seeking a position with the military, secret service, or even the CIA, then yes, political science is an ideal choice for study in college
Q: So, we know now the fields that are best for a poli sci major to reach for. Do you possess any area specific knowledge that you specialize or excel in?
A: I spent many years working under the tutelage of Supreme Court Justices. For many years I studied legal holdings and research Constitutional issues in order to aid the Chief Justice in determining the outcome of cases. I work in the capacity of being the pre-law advisor as well as the faculty advisor to the pre-law society.
Q: Do you miss working with the Supreme Court?
A: Those were good days. I learned a lot about the system and the laws that are in effect throughout the country. I also learned a lot about human nature and how many times our issues are not quite issues, they are more emotionally sparked from hurt feelings and the feeling that one has been betrayed in one way or another. Although, everyone must move on at one point or another, and I found that my time with the Court had expired. I learned all that I could, bonded with some great people, but now feel it is time for me to offer what I learned to the next generation. Helping my students to better understand the legal system is now my reward. I can help these individuals in not only understanding how the system works, but also in realizing the amount of manpower and time it takes for a court case or litigation to come to fruition.
Q: Is there any advice that you would want to offer to someone considering a Political Science degree?
A: Know yourself. Political Science is not a general education or lesser degree as many administrators and individuals think it is. This degree program will require a lot of research, reading, and knowing political structures from many different time periods. Know who are and what you want out of your degree. Have a goal that you want to reach first, then see if the Political Science course of study will fit into that goal. Taking the degree first and then trying to figure out where you are going, or what you will do in life will only leave you in debt and out of work. As with anything in life, make sure that what you think you want is truly what you really want. This will be an expensive lesson to learn if every aspect of the educational goal is not thoroughly thought out first.