November 05, 2012

The Election Through the Eyes (and Votes) of Eighth Graders

By Steven Potter

While thousands gathered to see President Barack Obama at an election eve campaign stop in downtown Madison, I spent my morning doing something just as equally inspiring: talking to local 8th graders about politics and the results of their recent mock election for president.

In the blind, mock election held at Annie Greencrow Whitehorse Middle School on the city’s east side, students were assigned campaigns to work on where the presidential candidates were only identified by their stance on the issues and as “Candidate #1” and “Candidate #2.” While the campaigns, which included posters, campaign videos and other voter outreach, were run by the school’s six 8th grade classes, the election was voted on by all three grades.

In the end, on their election day Nov. 2, Candidate #1 defeated his challenger. To say it was a landslide would be a misnomer. Candidate #1 carried every state in the union, based on the electoral college system where handfuls of classes were assigned groups of states. Every. Single. State.

Over the course of the Whitehorse Middle School mock campaign during October, students intensely studied the issues and policy plans of each candidate. Through this, many students deducted that Candidate #1 was Barack Obama.

Once that was known, the mock election took a decidedly adult turn: the students began talking to each other about the issues and how the candidates’ policies would affect them, their families and their future.

From my view, this is why President Barack Obama won so overwhelmingly. Even as 13- and 14-year-olds, these Whitehorse students were able to understand Obama’s policies and plans for the future and why he would be the candidate to help them succeed in the next few years as they become adults.

Many of the students asked if I had met the president (I have not) and what I exactly did as deputy communications director for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. Many of the students also asked if I liked my job and if I felt it made a difference (I do).

But beyond that, I was asked many inquisitive, informed questions about politics in general that left me very inspired by the interest these students show toward their future. Their questions showed a grasp of life beyond their years.

If the attention to detail, interest in educating themselves and their ability to discuss the issues with others the students at Whitehorse Middle School is any indication of the future beyond Barack Obama’s second term when these students are able to vote, I am confident our country is headed in the right direction.

A special thank you and shout out to the teachers and staff of Annie Greencrow Whitehorse Middle School for adding such an important aspect of all of our lives to the curriculum.

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