Quaker Valley, Sewickley Academy students cast their votes for president in mock elections
By Bobby Cherry
Published: Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, 8:57 p.m.
History is happening before the eyes of students across the country as one of the fiercest presidential campaigns nears its end.
Teachers at Quaker Valley and Sewickley Academy say they are using the election as a livable history lesson.
If some Sewickley Academy students are correct, President Obama will cruise to a second term.
Obama received 27 percent of votes calculated in a mock election held Monday in grades three through six.
But the students never knew which candidate they selected, instead choosing based on the presidential hopeful's stance on education.
It's not yet clear who will win a mock election planned for Election Day at Quaker Valley Middle School, where students will vote — most of them using an electronic method — for the candidate whom they think should be the next president.
There, an electoral-type system will allow for a popular vote and an electoral vote — something teacher R.J. Long says is a “teachable moment.”
“We tried this in 2008, and it was beautiful because (Sen. John) McCain won the electoral vote and (President) Obama won the popular vote,” Long said.
With the votes tallied at Sewickley Academy, teacher Noble Newman said the winner of the election wasn't necessarily as important as the lesson.
“The biggest lesson was the fact that students came back from the first presidential debate talking about who they liked, and they didn't even know the points,” he said.
“They were choosing based on their parents' party lines. This (the school debate and election) was a lesson in being an educated voter.”
Newman said researching an issue — not a candidate — allowed the students the chance to “listen to the issues, not to vote on party lines, not to vote on the person, not to vote on who their parents say they're voting for.”
The project limited the campaign to one issue — education, something Newman said is important in the lives of the students.
“You need to look at all of the candidates before you before making that choice,” Newman said.
Student Erin Mahoney said she hopes her fellow classmates will remember this lesson when they are called upon to vote.
“I hope they were really paying attention and actually think about each candidate's education position instead of thinking about the candidate,” she said.
At Quaker Valley, Long, an eighth-grade social studies teacher, had students create a campaign binder, summarizing 15 articles gathered from various media outlets and identifying three issues and the candidates' positions on those issues.
“We wanted them to walk through the process that we hope every American goes through,” Long said.
“There's so much information that's out there. It's so critically important that these kids embrace this.
“We're really starting to see passion and strong opinions starting to develop.”
Long said he wants students to realize that “as a responsible citizen, it is your job to stay involved.”
Bobby Cherry is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-324-1408 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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