Well, friends, it’s over! No more mudslinging campaign commercials! Hallelujah! Last month, Alexandra Pannoni from US News and World Report tweeted asking high school teachers to share how they would cover the results of the presidential election. I immediately responded with my initial idea and thought I would share the rest of my post-election plan, as well as what I shared with my students today about the election.
The 2016 Presidential Election, and especially the campaign, was anything but normal. Not only was a woman the candidate for a major political party less than 100 years after women were granted suffrage in America, but a multi-millionaire businessman with no political experience represented the other major party. Both candidates allowed themselves to succumb to mudslinging and name-calling, which led to the degradation of one of the most important and precious features of our political process – voting for president.
To help capture the historic 2016 Presidential Election and encourage my students to think about what we have lived through as a nation, I assigned a discussion board activity in which they answered the following:
Imagine that you are writing to future Americans and it is your job to educate these citizens about the 2016 presidential election. This election has been anything but normal, and will definitely be discussed for years to come. Tell the story of this election as it happened, from your perspective as an American teenager.
I encouraged my students to write their response in the form of a journal entry, a letter to their future children, or as information they would want a textbook-writer to read, and include in a history book. I gave my students most of the class period to record their thoughts and experiences.
Next, I shared the map of the 2012 electoral results from 270 to win and the results of last night’s election from the New York Times. Students then chose two states and outline those states with a red or blue marker in accordance with the candidate who won on two different maps in the classroom: one for 2012 and one for 2016. Tomorrow, we will look at those maps, discuss the states that changed their votes from 2012-2016, and discuss demographics of those states and how the candidates campaigned in those states. This data should make for an interesting discussion! We will also view the county-by-county data from our state in 2012 and 2016.
What did I share with my students about my hopes and vision for America: post-Election 2016? Did I tell them which candidate received my vote? Nope. Why? Simply because my classroom is a place where I attempt to teach my students how to think and not what to think. I don’t want to inadvertently sway my students’ newly-formed (or forming) political beliefs toward one party or another. I don’t want my classroom to become an arena for a political platform.
So, what did I share?
We are blessed to live in a country where I can disagree with virtually everything that someone thinks … everything, including their stance on abortion, same-sex marriage, gun control, taxation, immigration, universal healthcare, their favorite book, favorite color, favorite food, how they take their coffee, and everything else in between … and I can still respect them as a person and believe that they have the right to an opinion, even if it differs from mine. I sincerely hope that our country can become a place where everyone can be respected for their opinion and that we, like our founding fathers before us, can agree that we need to come together to do what’s best for our country as a whole, and not what’s best for a political party or a specific group. Hopefully, we can heed the words of JFK and “…. not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer …” What is the right answer to any problem that impacts our country? The answer that we as Americans – people from all walks of life – reach together. My hope is that we can and will come together, and respect each other and our different opinions, after such a bitter, divisive campaign … because that is what has always made America great.