For Jonathan Parent, Ph.D., there is no greater sound in his classroom than the voices of his students – reflecting, responding and, most important, questioning. An assistant professor of political science, Parent gauges the success of each class by how engaged his students are. The livelier the discussion, the better. For Parent, it comes down to this: Students learn best when they wrestle with complexity and learn to think for themselves.
A native of Alberta, Parent teaches courses in the American presidency, constitutional law and the U.S. Supreme Court. The latter is a particular interest of his. As Parent has noted, “All political questions in America will eventually become legal questions.” He has studied constitutional interpretation and state judicial behavior, but Parent is particularly intrigued by law and society or, as he put it, “how law impacts people on the ground.”
Parent is also fascinated by how American political development and history have influenced and shaped politics, a topic that proved especially relevant this election year. He was part of a round table discussion on campus on the Constitution and the 2016 election as part of Constitution Day. In addition, as the election drew closer, numerous journalists interviewed him about the Electoral College and the primary process, as well as about how different events could potentially impact the presidential race.
The College’s Jesuit heritage and its commitment to a preferential option for the poor is part of what drew Parent to Le Moyne two years ago. As an educator, his aim is not just to teach his students about the nation’s system of government. It’s also to help them become better-informed and more active citizens. By the time these young men and women graduate, he wants them have a better understanding of their own beliefs and a respect for the beliefs of others, as well as a greater appreciation of what people who live at the margins experience.
Parent acknowledges that one of the challenges facing politics today is attracting young people to the field. He said that his students are largely “enthusiastic and passionate” and he hopes they may one day consider serving in elective office. One thing he knows for sure is this: They will not miss an opportunity to have their voices heard.
“You will not be in my class and not voting,” he said.