Political Science Now

Using Music and Lyrics to Teach Political Theory

In his article, Prof. Tom Rozinski explains how he engages students in his introductory political theory classes at Touro College. Since they spend far more time listening to music than reading, he introduces key topics by playing a popular song or a show tune and then discussing the ideas reflected in the song. For example, to illustrate Aristotle’s civic friendship, he plays the Hollies’ “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother,” and guides the students through a discussion of why it matters more how they travel the road of life than where that road takes them. He then asks students to compare the Hollies’ perspective to Aristotle’s contention that the highest form of life is found in the polis or political community.  Rozinski finds that these discussions transform students from passive readers into active, critical thinkers about political theory. Furthermore, as students listen to the songs, their minds create mnemonic links that improve their retention of the concepts they discuss. These memories are particularly strong for songs heard for the first time, which is why Rozinski relies on older songs unfamiliar to most current students. The article includes a chart of 21 songs relevant to teaching introductory courses in political theory.

Using Music and Lyrics to Teach Political Theory by Tom Rozinski, appears in PS: Political Science & Politics / Volume 48 / Issue 03 / July 2015, pp 483 – 487.