"Democracy is messy. It requires us to roll up our sleeves and take part in it. Authoritarianism is easy. You do this, or you die. Democracy is messy, and we tend to forget that sometimes. It has conflict, but it also has room for compromise."
Mr. Frankland is a political science instructor in the school of social and behavioral sciences at Casper College, serves as the director of the Casper Committee to Foreign Relations, and the faculty advisor for the Campus Democrats. Erich takes pride in his ability to play devils advocate in his classes and his encouragement to students on finding their voice. We thank him for joining us to discuss the current state of politics, and reminding us that while every citizen has birth given rights endowed upon them. But that those rights come with power, and a responsibilty to ourselves, our loved ones, our fellow citizens, the surrounding community, and the country as a whole. Thank you, Erich!
Emy DiGrappa (00:00):
Hello, my name is Emy DiGrappa. Each week, we bring you stories, asking our guests the question why. We learn about passion, purpose, and the human experience, brought to you by Wyoming Humanities, with the generous support of the Wyoming Community Foundation. This is What's Your Why.
Today, we are talking to Erich Frankland. Erich is a professor of political science and international studies at Casper College in Casper, Wyoming. Welcome Erich.
Erich Frankland (00:43):
Thank you, Emy, for having me.
Emy DiGrappa (00:45):
Today, I want to get to know you a little bit more personally. I want to know why you moved to Wyoming and what you find intriguing about living in Wyoming.
Erich Frankland (00:54):
Why I moved to Wyoming. Oh, that was a long time ago, 1998. I had applied for a number of jobs that year and I got three offers, and Casper College by far was head and shoulders above all the other offers. I really felt a connection to the faculty here, the community, the campus, it's a beautiful campus. We're a lot bigger now than we were then even, with new buildings, but I was just really impressed in community support for the college. I've been at other schools where there's distance or tension between the college and the community. And that was definitely not the case here. So, all in all, a very positive experience interviewing here. So when I got the offer, I wanted to take this one.
And living here, my wife and I raised two children here. We've enjoyed... Even though Casper is far away, I always tell everybody, but we have an airport here, which is helpful. You get used to road trips. And so we would road trip back to the Midwest, where I'm from originally. I have relatives who live in the Southwest. We'd go down there. We just got used to long car rides, but we've grown to really love Casper and Wyoming, particularly outdoors. All of us are into hiking or skiing or snowshoeing. My daughter is a triathlete. So she swims out at Lake Alcova for training and all of that.
Emy DiGrappa (02:20):
I like her already.
Erich Frankland (02:23):
And the school system here was excellent, prepared both of our kids for really rigorous undergraduate experiences. And they got to do things that kids don't normally get to do. For example, my daughter took Russian in high school, and you don't get to do that. And then we also offer Japanese at another high school here in Casper. So, those opportunities, and the international baccalaureate program, both my kids went through, and I have lots of friends who are teaching around the country and they were just shocked that... You have that in Casper, Wyoming? It's like, yes. And then more. So it's been a great place to live these last 20-plus years. This is home now for us, I guess you could say.
Emy DiGrappa (03:06):
That's wonderful. And I think the rest of the country thinks we're still riding our horses to school.
Erich Frankland (03:11):
Well, I used to get those questions when I first moved here. Do you ride your horses to school? One of my favorite ones was, do you have grass in Wyoming? And this is not the marijuana grass. This was regular grass. I was like, yes, there's grass in Wyoming. We have green, not all that long of the year, but there's green in Wyoming. People have yards. So it is interesting, the gap people have in knowledge of the West. Many people didn't realize that this is where Yellowstone is. I know it's out West, but the bulk of the park's in Wyoming, they didn't quite realize that. So it's kind of interesting that lack of knowledge people have of their own country, even some not that far away, people in New Mexico, weren't quite sure. Well, what's up in Wyoming? What's why would you go there?
Emy DiGrappa (03:59):
Oh, that's true. And I grew up in Colorado, so I can certainly attest to that. And we're a small... We're a big state, small population. And like you said, you have to learn to be a road warrior when you live here.
Erich Frankland (04:14):
You also have to be careful with relationships here, I think. Because it's a small enough state. Everybody will get to hear if you've been bad or you've done something that people disapprove of. But it also presents us with great opportunities for our students. I brought in US senators into the classroom, US representatives, former governor. You don't get that in other states. And so for teaching politics, it's a great state to have that access for students to those experts, to those practitioners, that they're not getting in Colorado or another state necessarily.
Emy DiGrappa (04:49):
And how involved are you in politics in Casper? Or is that a fair question? Because you teach it so obviously you're very contemporary with politics and working with students. And so not just, are you involved in politics because you are, you're teaching it, but how do you get other people excited, especially your students about the political process?
Erich Frankland (05:15):
Well, it may be a two part answer to your question. I'm the director of the Casper Committee on Foreign Relations. And so when it comes to international politics and issues, I'm able to bring in speakers to Casper, could be an ambassador from another country, top experts, a military official, what have you, to talk about either another country or another issue that's affecting US foreign policy interests. Tied to that, I've been able to now, for 22 years, to include students in the programming. And so they get to hear those speakers. They get to ask the questions, interact. And we usually go to Washington, DC, every year as part of the class, so they can immerse themselves in the foreign side of politics.
On the other side, I'm a regular consultant with the media, TV, radio, and newspaper on political issues. And so I kind of joke with my students, something bad happens, you might see me on TV. There's no correlation there. I didn't cause the bad to happen. They're just wanting to talk about what's going on. All of us in the department, we really work to engage the students in what's going on outside, is relevant to what's going on inside the classroom and vice versa. And so we're really trying to get them to think about what they're learning and how that applies to the real world out there, and their place in that. How do you stay informed? How can you participate? Understanding how the political process works. So you would know who to talk to, when to talk to them and so forth. And so all of us really work to encourage that level of engagement.
The one thing we benefit from... This is statewide, not just Casper. Everybody has to take the American Wyoming government class or something comparable. So we get to talk to, basically, almost every student at some point in their academic career. And some of them, we convert to the dark side, studying political science as a major, others, this may be the one class they do, but we really hope to have them leave with the tools to be a more informed and effective citizen. If you look at Wyoming's constitution, that's the very first thing in article one, power's in the people's hands. And the expectation is those people will be educated in a form when they cast their votes and make other political decisions. So, we feel we're doing our small part to make that possible here in Wyoming. So I guess those are the main ways I engage.
I try to, and this is sometimes difficult. You keep your personal views outside of the classroom. And so I never tell my students what party identify with, who I'm going to vote for. I will answer their questions about that candidate or that candidate in an objective sense. These are their strengths, these are their weaknesses. We'll talk about some of the election issues, again, looking at multiple perspectives. We encourage them to register to vote and vote. So, sometimes it's harder than other times, but I think we all feel that this isn't about indoctrination or brainwashing. This is about informing and elevating students' level of thinking and discourse. And so to put your view out there, you kind of shut off any debate or discussion then, nobody wants to dispute or disagree with the faculty necessarily. So we try to keep that as distant as possible.
I am involved locally. I did run for office. At one point I got asked repeatedly and I finally said, yes. I didn't win, but it was an experience to run. Ran for state senate 12 years ago now. But I do get involved in some of the local party stuff here. I'm the faculty advisor for one of the political groups on campus as well. So there are other ways I can get involved, but I don't try to interject that in the classroom, if at all possible.
Emy DiGrappa (09:05):
What is the median age of your students?
Erich Frankland (09:07):
At the college, I think we're looking at about 20, 21. Since I've been here, we've seen an increase in traditional age and even younger because of the [inaudible 00:09:21] program. We still have some non-traditional students. I have students who are older than me, older than my parents in class, for example, but most of our students are 18, 19, 20 around there. We do get a fair number who have come back from life, be it working in the oil fields or something, and I want to get an education now, I don't want any more of that sort of manual labor work. I'm tired of that or I got hurt or whatever. So I get a number of those in class as well. So they're mid- to late twenties usually, or maybe a little older.
And that mix of students, I think, is the nice thing about teaching at Casper college, the range of life experiences and perspectives you're going to get really help illustrate the differences on political issues and concerns. And we also have a fair number of international students, which I really like with my classes. I teach most of the international and comparative classes. And so they give that totally different perspective that our students haven't even thought about. And so I really try to incorporate them in the class discussions and so forth, it really helps add to it. Or even students from other states. I get students from Colorado, California, and elsewhere. And again, it's different in every state. And that really helps illustrate what Wyoming does and why it could be made better or why it maybe is better than other states. Comparative discussion is important part of all our classes.
Emy DiGrappa (10:50):
Certainly. And it's curious because you have quite a diverse range of students. So you could have a student from age 20 to say age 50. And when you're talking and working with your students, where are they finding their news? Where are they getting their information?
Erich Frankland (11:08):
That's a good question. A couple years ago, we actually were part of a journalistic look at how are people in Wyoming forming their political views. So we had a group coming from the East coast who did a series at Oxford college. We did some interviews with students and community members on your question. I think for a lot of east Casper, there's a mix. I mean, it's really hard to generalize too much. I have students who almost religiously follow the news and they're following a lot of the traditional news sources, be it television news or newspaper online, not necessarily hard copy, but then I have others who have fallen into the social media/Facebook crap, and many of end up getting turned off by politics as a result, they're tired of the negativity, the pessimism, the doom and gloom, the personal attacks. And so what we've seen, at least I've seen in the last decade, is increasingly students don't want to talk about politics.
They've sort of become disenchanted. And so it takes a little while in class to come to realize this is a safe place to talk about politics. I'm not going to be unfriended or condemned or banned or ostracized because I'm saying the thing that's different from those others in class or different than the instructor. And that helps unleash some of them to actually want to learn more. And so they start following again, whatever their preferred sources are.
Usually, when we talk about politics and the media, I usually go through... These are some of the sources that at least objectively are seen as more reliable, more regularly consistent sources that you can access. But even if you don't want those, I always urge them, look up something different than you normally do. So if you rely on MSNBC, you'll look at Fox, or vice versa. If you're relying on Facebook, look at more traditional source, the Tribune, just see where the differences lie. You want to be an informed reader, an informed viewer. And so if you can figure out your views and what best fits your views, that's important, I think.
Emy DiGrappa (13:23):
What do you see as the most tragic or just really sad outcome of the way we are conducting our political campaigns right now?
Erich Frankland (13:39):
Emy DiGrappa (13:40):
Well, you can give several examples, but I think you probably have a really good perception or perspective on... Because you've been following politics for your career. Where are we going wrong, in terms of just being so divided that people don't want to talk about politics, they become isolated, both sides isolate from each other. Where do we go wrong?
Erich Frankland (14:05):
Three or four things off the top of my head. One, and this is sort of a broader issue to your question, but we have a lack of basic information, and this has been lamented by political scientists for decades. And there is the argument that maybe it's good that Americans aren't as concerned about politics, because we can take a lot for granted. It's almost like it's on remote control. They don't have to worry about if I say something, a death squad is going to come shoot me. And so there's that angle. But one of the things that seems to really turn off students is the electoral college. And I try to get across to them that, like this year, when you vote that presidential race is only one race on the ticket. You've got all these other races where your vote does matter.
And I give them lots of here in Wyoming, in recent years, where our class size basically determined who won and who didn't. So your one vote can make a profound difference, potentially. Also it gives you a stake in the process. They sort of get fixated on the electoral college. My vote really doesn't matter because of the electoral college. That's just the race for presidency. There's all this other out there you can really impact.
Another is more specific to your question. We like to portray politics as sort of a gladiatorial contest. And that's nothing new. I mean, it goes back to the very beginning. If you look at Jefferson versus Adams in the 1800 election, for example, and I always use that example, you want a really mean nasty election? Look at the coverage in 1800. It makes today look like nothing in comparison. But the dilemma there is we tend to forget that once the election dust settles... I like how President Biden put this in the last debate.
I'm going to be president of all Americans, if I win. This is what Thomas Jefferson said, an 1800 too. Once this election is done, we're going to come together as a country. And I think we kind of forget that. We bear the grudges longer than we should, there is another election in two years or four years, depending on the seat. And so work for that next election. It doesn't mean we're adversaries. I teach, again, a lot of comparative politics. There's the idea of loyal opposition in lots of countries. I can be opposed to everything that you're pushing, but doesn't mean I'm a traitor or I'm not a patriot or whatever, and it's my role to expose where I think you're going wrong. And we get better as a result of that exchange.
That's how our system is supposed to function, originally, by James Madison. But I think we've lost some of that. I also think though, and I would blame the political elite and some of the media on this, we are encouraging camps. We are encouraging the polarization. And it's not just polarization on issues, it's affective or emotional polarization, sort of a gut visceral view. The other side is your enemy. This isn't existential. If you lose, it's not, you can wait till the next election, the enemy has taken over. And that has led to, I think, an increasingly dysfunctional political system. I mean, a phrase you might remember from Congress a couple of years ago was the do-nothing Congress, because the party divides were so strong there, and most Americans, increasingly, seem to want another option. The last poll I saw was over 40% self-identifies and independent or other, not Democrat or Republican.
So I think people are getting frustrated. And I like to point out to the students, if you look at yourself or your neighbor or a family member, they're probably actually purple, they're not red or blue. On some issues they're going to see the Republican side, on some issues, they're going to see the Democrats side, on other issues they're going to be neither. And so we are much more complex and we're being made to. Politics isn't black and white, it's about the gray and finding your way through those compromises, negotiations, and deals. That's part of the political process for citizens as well as for politicians. I think we've kind of lost sight of that, as a country. We've oversimplified really complex issues down to the soundbite and that forces people to either choose that side or this side.
So I think there's a lot of factors involved of this, but I think I would blame a lot of the leadership and/or lobbyists, advisors, of encouraging this, painting the other side as the enemy, rather than just my opponent. I mean, you can remember, and I can remember when they would come out, shake hands, they would avoid personal attacks. You focus on, this is how I view on this issue. No, this is how I view on this issue. They were serving informed discussion there, and we really have seemed to veer away from that. I mean, it's sort of like some sort of beauty contest, you are looking at the superficials rather than looking at the substance of what those individuals could bring into the office. I mean, does it really matter if the president wore that tie or that tie? We're caught up in those superficialities. Some people blame the reality TV impact on American culture. We're used to, it's do or die, people are fighting to the end.
People are undercutting, backstabbing each other. That's not necessarily what politics should be about. And you mentioned you're in Jackson. There's a great series that PBS did couple of years ago with Mike Sullivan and Al Simpson. I don't know if you went to that. Restoring civility, the politics.
Emy DiGrappa (19:38):
We sponsored that.
Erich Frankland (19:39):
Oh, you sponsored that? Okay. I know Mike fairly well, just because I disagree with you doesn't mean I need to be disagreeable. We can have those debates and discussions. At the end of the day, you and I still might not agree. But out of that discussion debate, maybe we've reached some sort of common ground that we can move forward on this issue. Or maybe you can put that issue aside and work on another issue, where we can find common ground more easily. The name calling the personal attacks, the mudslinging, with social media and the internet it's gotten worse.
The online bullying phenomenon transfers into politics too. But I think we need to make a conscious effort as citizens and as voters, I don't want that. I'm not going to tolerate that. And so, let those candidates know, you lost my vote. I'm going to vote for your opponent or not give to your campaign in the future if you continue down this line. And we've seen this in some states. Comes to mind, Washington state had this, we had two congressional candidates, basically shake hands and agree, I won't go low, you won't go low. This is about the issue. This is about what we can do to improve our state. That's where we're going to focus our campaigns and the voters held them to that. If you start going low, we're going to call you on that.
So I think, given this is Wyoming, we could do that more effectively than other states. And given the nature of particularly the state and local races, if you don't like the way your candidate is doing business, call them on it. I had a colleague just today who showed me a flyer that one of our candidates has printed out. It's not about what they could bring to the office, it's denigrating their opponent, but the whole thing is about that. And so, yeah, you can point out your opponent's weaknesses or flaws, but the language you use, how you portray them... Again, they're not the enemy, they're your opponent in this election, is all. And I think we're moving away from that more and more, it seems like. Long answer to your question, sorry.
Emy DiGrappa (21:42):
No, it's fine. It's great. It's really good to remember that it's two years and four years, it's not forever. It's not a do or die process, that you can still stay involved. If you didn't like who won, then even get more involved. And I think this is just kind of what I see with issues and candidates is that it's kind of like we're used to fast food.
Erich Frankland (22:08):
Emy DiGrappa (22:08):
We want all the answers right in front of us. We don't want to have to think about it too hard. Do I know what you stand for? A lot of people don't know what certain people stand for, because they are too busy listening to the sound bites.
Erich Frankland (22:22):
That's where I think... Back to one of your earlier questions, I'll have students ask me, where can I get information on the candidates, especially. And so I point them to some pretty well-regarded nonpartisan, League of Women Voters, for example, does great voting guides. The Star Tribune does a voting guide every election season. But also, look at their web pages. We had some candidates this year in the primary races who were speaking like they were totally different than what they're portraying themselves on their own campaign websites. And so you're going to catch that. So I think there is interest there, but I think a lot of people, particularly students, are turned off by the negativity, by the attacks. A lot of them, particularly our traditional age students, are kind of still finding their way. What exactly do I believe, when they're getting out from underneath mom and dad or other household views and trying to find themselves.
And that sense that, if I ask that question or if I have this view on an issue, I'm going to be slammed, I'm going to be criticized, villainized. That's, really unfortunate, because they're kind of getting stunted in developing their own political identities. And that is really unfortunate for the future, because one thing we don't want as a democracy, we want people to want to participate. We want people to be informed, and engaged, and involved. We are pretty bad anyway on voting turnout, compared to other democracies, we're one of the worst. And so we don't really want to get even worse on the number of non-voters. And we need to find ways to hook Americans back in. One of the ways is to turn down that negativity, turn down the personal attacks, focus on your vision, your ideas, how is this going to benefit you in Jackson? Rather than I need to be in power. I have all the answers.
I always emphasize with the students... I was a history and political science major in undergrad. So they get a fair dose of history in my classes. Without compromise, we wouldn't exist, there'd be no constitution. Most of our major pieces of legislation, be it the Civil Rights Act or others wouldn't exist without bipartisanship. And we forget there's that huge middle ground area that you're not going to totally win and I'm not going to totally win, but we'll get something that we mutually can agree on. It's beneficial. It's a step forward. And again, thanks for supporting that with Simpson and Sullivan. I mean, I think we need to get back to that.
So, I go to DC every year. I talk with the politicians while we're there. They used to enjoy the chance to go out and catch a beer or go out fishing or play softball. But now it's like you're cavorting with the enemy, how dare you do that? And that's really sad. But unfortunately what we're seeing, and this is going back to your question, our primary system kind of encourages this, because primaries get very low turnout, nationwide. Wyoming does pretty well, but nationwide. And so you get the most diehard ideological voters voting. So when the general voter comes around in November, they're left with this extremist, and that extremist, and that reinforces that polarization. And so if more of us participated in primary voting, we would probably get more centrists, more moderates, more bridge builders, who win in the primaries then we have been getting.
Again, a lot of political scientists looked at this with Congress. Since the last 40 years, it's become increasingly polarized, more so even than the country. And they do point to political primaries as a key reason for that, because we're getting those extremists elected and not the traditional moderates or centrists that used to be in Congress.
Emy DiGrappa (26:13):
I hadn't heard that, but I'm glad you said that because that really puts a different perspective now, when I vote during the primaries, or that making it a bigger deal than it is. It's really important that we're focusing on the big day, instead we need to be preparing people all the way through the process to vote for the primaries. I really like that.
Erich Frankland (26:39):
I mean, one possible reform that I don't think we'll ever do, that other countries do, they limit the campaign season. Because you do get voter fatigue.
Emy DiGrappa (26:49):
Erich Frankland (26:49):
We've been hearing about this election since the last election. So for four years, we've been hearing about this. In other countries, you have 30 days or 40 days, this is your set campaign, and then you're going to have the election. There's a certain argument for that. Our system really spreads it out, with how we do the primaries and caucuses and presidential election years. You've got from January to September and a lot of people, they get fatigued, they get overwhelmed. I'm just tired of talking about this and hearing about this.
Another reform, which maybe will go somewhere, is talking more about public financing of campaigns. Because a lot of students feel, my vote really doesn't matter cause I don't have the money to really influence those politicians and those elections. Again, that cynicism is definitely alive and well among not only students, but American voters in general. And so if we could find a way to more level that playing field, to where it's ideas, not dollars, that translates into who is the better candidate. I think that would maybe help restore a fair amount of faith in the political process. The Citizens United decision, really, I think, helped gut that faith, this idea of all this dark money flowing in, the billions of dollars flowing in, influencing election results. You know, who am I? You know, I'm a student working a service job or you know, maybe I've got a decent part-time job, but I don't have the money to donate to campaigns. I don't have the money to influence who makes it and who doesn't. I think that would do a lot to restore the trust, the faith, the involvement. I think that's more feasible than shortening the campaign season.
Emy DiGrappa (28:32):
Yeah, really. But I like your ideas and I think that there's so much merit in what you're saying and just even thinking about how long someone can stay in Congress. And so we're really cutting people off at the knees if we let people stay in Congress year after year after year, and we don't give new voices and new ideas and younger people a chance.
Erich Frankland (29:00):
Yeah. I think campaign finance reform would do that to a degree, but also having a more informed citizenry would help too. I'm not a huge fan of term limits, because I think that's artificial. Because if someone is doing a good job, maybe they should get reelected. I always argue term limits are elections. You don't like what that candidates doing, vote him out. And you might remember that the term limits to push... We had, jeez, over 30 years ago now, they're trying to make a term limits amendment on Congress. And the concern there was that people wanted to limit the terms of other states' members. They like their own. So, I don't like Carla, but I liked John Barasso. So we should put limits on his term, but not Barasso. It's not going to work that way. If you have term limits is going to be everybody.
And if you have term limits, you kind of wonder who are those politicians going to be turning to? Probably the staffers and the lobbyists for political knowledge and information to make their decisions. And if you know you're only going to be there one or two terms, are you going to try to enrich yourself while you're in office? Potentially, yes. And I think if we get campaign finance reform and greater voter turnout that could have the same effect in some ways as term limits. You saw this two years ago in the congressional elections and you saw this 12 years ago when Obama ran, you had people who had never voted before, but came out and voted. So if we can get dynamic candidates, if we can get issues that are seen as really salient or relevant to people that could help turn things around. It's back to your comment about fast food.
It's not going to be a short term solution, it's going to be a long-term solution. And we got to get consistent buy-in from people. Right now, it's hard to get people to realize typically how government affects them, particularly students. And I think COVID, for bad, definitely, but it's really exposed to people that what decisions your political figures make is life and death. And it's not just that issue. There's all kinds of other issues that are really important that those politicians are deciding. So you should be informed, you should be engaged. You should feel you have a say in that process.
Emy DiGrappa (31:23):
I'm just going to ask you one more question before we go. And that is, when you're working with students in a non-partisan way, but you have this tension maybe going on if you host any debates or in your class that you're letting them feel what it's like in the political process. Do you see what's happening out in the world, come right into your classroom?
Erich Frankland (31:50):
Yes, definitely. The very first day of class, we go over the syllabus, every instructor does that here. And one of the things I have in my syllabus is you will be exposed to different points of view than your own, but respect those individuals. And we want that exchange of ideas. This is an academic environment. That's what it's all about. We should be exploring different ideas, different approaches, getting out of our comfort zones. And this is a, quote, safe space to do that exploration. So what I end up doing, a couple of examples, in class, playing devil's advocate can be very useful. So it seems like, you know, the majority is on this bandwagon, pro-Trump, anti-Trump, whatever the case might be. And there are others in class who probably are fearful of speaking out. And so I'll give the contrasting view, so what about this?
I also do that with their writing assignments, getting them to think about how you're presenting ideas, how would the other side view this? Are you making an assumption there, you have information to back that assumption up? Getting them to understand the issues and understand their own beliefs, and being able to articulate those regardless of what class they're taking, I think it's an important part of college. They need to learn how to advocate for themselves in life, not just in college. And so, we hope we're giving them that skillset. I guess a funny example, this was a student from a few years ago, she thanked me at the end of the semester. Said, now I can actually have debates with my father-in-law. He thinks he knows everything about politics and I can point out the stuff he's wrong on. I was like, be careful how you do that. There still is the father-in-law, daughter-in-law dynamic here, but she's like, yeah, I'll be respectful, but he's just used to everybody just going along with what he says and he's wrong.
Emy DiGrappa (33:49):
He's using his power.
Erich Frankland (33:52):
Empowering students to feel they have that voice, they have that say, I think as an important step as part of college. Not only in politics, but in life in general, to speak out when something is wrong. But with what you're doing with humanities, I think, we are encouraging students to be as well-rounded as possible. So they have the ability to understand scientific questions, literary questions, political questions, and hopefully make reasoned decisions and reasoned judgements. And so I'm a big fan of that, broad liberal arts, general education approach that... We want well-rounded citizens emerging from the college, that can be full-functioning members of Wyoming society and Wyoming's economy. And I hope we're producing those students.
Emy DiGrappa (34:39):
Well, I always tell people that you do the humanities every day, whether you know it or not. Whether you're having your conversation about politics with your best friend, you're doing the humanities. Whenever you're reading something and making a decision on what you just read. Always the humanities, they're just part of our very fabric. And a lot of times people take it and they just want to put it in a scholarly way, instead of really realizing that we use... That's how we have our human experiences all the time.
Erich Frankland (35:15):
All of us work really hard to incorporate quality readings and getting the students to be discerning readers, getting them to think beyond just the black and white that's on the page there. How does this apply to other issues? How is this relevant to you? Hopefully encourage that sort of love of reading, and learning, and thinking. Once they're done here, because we only have them for two to three years, depending on the student, and they're going to go on either career or further education, but hopefully imparting them with that desire. Again, we're not a hundred percent, by any means. The more we can reach the better, I think, for the state and for the country.
And so my compatriots at other schools around the country, I think, are endeavoring to do the same thing, but it goes back to one of your earlier questions, this fast food approach to news and information and decisions is really undercutting our ability to have good dialogue, to find that common ground. I'd much rather do a zinger your way on a Facebook posting, and then I'm done, I've proven I'm better than you because you know, I've slammed you or whatever. I'm not a fan of that approach to interaction. Relationships are work and being a good citizen is work. It's hard. I mean, democracy is messy. It requires us to roll up our sleeves and to take part in it. Authoritarianism is easy. You do this or you die. Democracy is messy and we tend to forget that sometimes it has conflict, but it also has room for compromise.
Emy DiGrappa (36:59):
That's a good way to remind your students that relationships are messy and having a human relationship with your spouse, your mom, your dad, your brother, whoever, you're going to go through disappointments because nobody's perfect. So that's a good point that you just made.
Erich Frankland (37:28):
I know this is your last question, but a final thought to throw out there, is our syllabus. It's something that we actually agreed statewide on. I think it's in everybody's syllabus. We often talk about what my rights are as Americans, and I'm sure you've heard this quite a bit. I have the right to do this, I have the right to do that. We ignore the responsibilities though, to your family, to your community, to paying your taxes, to following the law, to voting, to being informed. There's a lot that goes into being a citizen of the United States. It's not just that you have the right to, you have the responsibility to do all those other things too. So you can have those rights. I mean, there's a correlation there and it seems we're getting further removed from that correlation. It's all about, I have the right to. You can't take away my rights, but we tend to forget about the responsibilities.
Emy DiGrappa (38:19):
I'm glad you ended on that note, because that is something that should be our mantra. It's not about the right. It's about the responsibility. I think I'll make a bumper sticker.
Erich Frankland (38:36):
I don't have any copyright on it, so feel free.
Emy DiGrappa (38:40):
Well, thanks for your time, Erich.
Erich Frankland (38:42):
Well, thank you. I'm glad we connected.
Emy DiGrappa (38:52):
Thank you for joining us for this episode of What's Your Why, brought to you by Wyoming Humanities, with support from Wyoming Community Foundation and generous supporters like you. To learn more, go to thinkwhy.org. Subscribe, and never miss a show.