AP Government teacher Lee Boyer uses a well-timed analogy to distinguish between “political culture” and “political ideology.”
With opening weekend of college football season upon us, Mr. Boyer began with the premise that everyone loves college football. Sure, that might not be 100% accurate, but its wide popularity and mass appeal are undeniable. In that sense, it is similar to political culture, which can be defined as a broadly shared way of thinking about political and economic life that reflects fundamental assumptions about how government should operate. In other words, most of us Americans can agree on democracy, liberty, capitalism, equality, majority rule, popular sovereignty, etc.
Next, Mr. Boyer shifted gears to “ideology.” He posed the question, “If you were a college football coach tasked with winning championships, what type of players would you choose?” The general consensus was dedicated, team-players. Mr. Boyer redirected, “What about offense or defense? If we score 50 points, are we going to win most games? If we shut the other team down, are we going to win most games?” Offensive-minded teams, like Oregon, and defensive-minded teams, like Alabama, are both trying to win championships, but they disagree on how to accomplish that goal. This is analogous to political ideology, which can be defined as a consistent set of views as to the policies the government ought to pursue. As one might predict, this led directly into comparisons of liberal and conservative viewpoints.
Using a sports analogy in the classroom can sometimes be a losing strategy when the students are unable to make the connection. However, in this case, Mr. Boyer only asked that students recognize the fact that teams differ in their offensive or defensive approach to the game of football, to which all students can relate. It served as an all-American backdrop to differentiating between two important American government vocabulary terms and provided a springboard by which to examine the differing views of the left-leaning and right-leaning positions of the political spectrum.