Jeannette class studies presidential candidates, considers choices
The freshmen in Kevin Cordera's American cultures class at Jeannette High School may be some of the most well informed people when it comes to this week's presidential election. They may not have been old enough to cast a vote Tuesday, but they are old enough to care about the issues facing the country and how those issues will affect them over the next four years.
Each week this fall, students wrote in journals about the presidential election studying such topics as the economy, Social Security, healthcare, energy, social issues, immigration and education.
Students were asked to consider questions such as “Should the wealthy have their taxes raised to help pay for the poor in the United States?” The students had to defend their answers and explain how they reached their opinions.
The students were also asked to explore where each candidate — President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney — stood on the issues the class studied. The students were challenged to research each issue, the candidates' positions and to determine which candidate's position most closely reflected their own opinions.
Katie Capehart still found herself undecided days before the election.
“Before (this project) I didn't know enough,” she said. “It helped me to see what's going on in and I learned I agreed with on candidate on one thing and the other candidate on another thing.”
Capehart realized she agreed with Obama on abortion issues and with Romney on immigration. She was surprised to find out how much money the candidates were spending to campaign.
Olivia Urbanic knew she preferred Romney before the project began and describes herself as someone who enjoys paying attention to politics. She wasn't surprised by much of what she learned in her research, but the project did give her some insight into how the other candidate arrived at his positions.
“With abortion, I saw where Obama was going, but Romney made more sense,” Urbanic said. On immigration, she said, “I think Romney's right, it should be easier to make immigration legal. It's hard and expensive here, it should be easier so there are less people here illegally.”
Something she learned was how different the two candidates were from each other, the research showed her how far apart the candidates' opinions are.
Ryan Mangan knew he was an Obama supporter before starting this project, but his research reinforced his opinion.
“It gave me more details on what he agrees with and what Romney agrees with, too,” he said.
Specifically, Mangan agreed with Obama's position on the economy and said, “We need to help out small businesses to keep the economy going and to keep people in jobs.”
He didn't have an interest in presidential politics before this project but the journaling gave him a chance to think about how he felt about the important issues facing the country.
This was the first time Cordera has run such a project and felt that though his freshmen students are too young to vote, this year's election was important enough that the students should have a working knowledge of the issues.
“A lot of things will affect them,” he said. “The debt, Social Security, healthcare — a lot of big things they're going to have to deal with. I wanted to get their eyes opened. There were some debates, some of the debates got heated and the kids backed up their arguments with facts.
“It worked really well, I think they enjoyed it. It's a shame to see it end. Current issues are very important for them to understand.”
Kristie Linden is an editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at email@example.com or 724-838-5154.