Last week, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) stirred up controversy in both academic and political circles by proposing an amendment to an appropriations bill that would cut off funding for the National Science Foundation’s political science program. He cited the fact that it was not a “real” science.
We’re a little irate.
Setting aside Sen. Coburn’s obvious political agenda in proposing the amendment, we take issue with the declaration that political science research is not useful and that it’s possible to weigh the intrinsic value of one academic discipline against another and definitively declare which one provides a greater benefit to society.
As college students, we’re constantly exposed to new ideas that challenge our own assumptions and beliefs. For students across the liberal arts — including both the “hard” sciences and the social sciences — this often means coming to terms with the myriad ideas that others hold and learning to agree to disagree. We respect others’ lines of inquiry and schools of belief so that they will respect ours.
The NSF was founded with a mandate to “advance the national health, prosperity and welfare” and is the major backer of a cross section of disciplines, including mathematics, social sciences and natural sciences. Eliminating a program that funds a healthy chunk of political science research because of one man’s dubious impossible-to-prove claims that the research is not valuable enough goes against the NSF’s mission and the role of academics and researchers at institutions across the nation: to discover more. We’re saddened that that even has to be defended.
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