Sonoma State University political science professor Richard Hertz has been a key figure in the university’s efforts to teach students about both the political process and technicalities of the United States government.
For this fall semester, Hertz is teaching POLS 199 - Introductory Topics in Political Science, a class designed to teach students about the current election.
Specifically, the class delves into the 17 statewide ballot propositions on the Nov. 8 ballot as well as campaign funding and super PACs involved in the presidential race itself.
The class aims to inform students on the process of voting, knowing the deadlines for voting and going through the specifics of the presidential race. Hertz says he plans to teach students about various voting pathways and how to register to vote.
“My goal is to make people more familiar with the election and to overall understand the election better,” said Hertz.
Enrollment for the class is very high, which comes as a surprise to Hertz, because it does not fulfill any general education requirements. There’s about 60 seats in the class, and all of those seats were filled by the end of fall registration. According to Hertz, there seems to be a gradual increase of student enrollment as the first few weeks of the semester pass by.
Outside the classroom, Hertz conducts polls for a living. For his most recent project at Sonoma State, Hertz worked with his class to put together a survey which seeks to gauge students’ general knowledge of the election.
Hertz plans to distribute the poll to various classes - and has partnered with the STAR to have it posted on the newspaper’s web site, in order to gain a better understanding about students’ engagement with the current political process.
Hertz also teaches POLS 200, American Political System, which encompasses a broader understanding of the United States political system as a whole. He calls POLS 199 a mini or more concentrated version of POLS 200, which focuses more on the logistical aspect of how the political system works.
“This current election is unique because of the stark difference between two major candidates, especially their difference in their political backgrounds,” Said Hertz.
He also brings up the point of how there are numerous ballot measures in this election and it’s important to educate students on how to navigate this extensive political information.
“There isn’t one direct source where young people can get information about the political process online,” said Hertz, he stressed how important it is to get young people in the habit of not only voting, but being involved in public decision making.
Hertz thinks it’s important for young people to critically evaluate information online in order to apply it to their knowledge of the political process.
“My ultimate goal as a professor is to make students more aware of how political process works, as well as to make informed decisions when it comes to participating in the political process in our Democratic society,” said Hertz.