Learning about politics: C-SPAN bus visits Mt. Pleasant Area High School
MOUNT PLEASANT -- "I think it's great, I think it's important they're trying to open politics to our age group," said Aaron Shumar of Mount Pleasant as he exited the C-SPAN School Bus at Mount Pleasant Area High School.
The eighth-grader will be eligible to vote in the presidential election of 2008, but he's already excited about politics.
"I watch C-SPAN," Shumar says. "It's necessary for people our age to know about politics."
That's the hope of C-SPAN, as well. The 45-foot bright yellow bus contains a complete television editing studio and interview area. Dozens of Mount Pleasant social studies students learned about the non-commercial cable channel's coverage of politics and could pick up a copy of the Constitution of the United States after the presentation.
Marian Lozano, community relations representative for C-SPAN, shows the students a brief video of the bus in its role of television studio; former President Clinton was interviewed on the bus.
Lozano says that C-SPAN works to remain neutral on all political issues. Employees may not discuss their own political leanings and the channel broadcasts House and Senate proceedings live. The politicians speak for themselves.
"We don't cut away," she says. "We want to be fair and balanced and neutral. If you only show a few seconds of a speech, people can get a very different impression than if you show the entire speech."
"The bus was very interesting. Bill Clinton was in there," says Allen Park of Mount Pleasant. The eighth-grader says that has he watched C-SPAN with his grandfather. "I'll probably watch it more often now."
"Our bus is meant to introduce students to the educational resources we can offer them," says Scott Peterson, a C-SPAN community representative. "If they have a paper due on history or government, they might watch C-SPAN or go on our Web site, www.cspan.org."
Peterson adds that cable companies support the 25-year-old network; 6 cents of each Armstrong Cable bill goes to C-SPAN; nationwide adding up to its $40 million annual budget.
Because the station is non-commercial, "we can concentrate on our mission, to be a direct conduit of government coverage," he continues. "We have no ratings, no commercials. People come to us to learn where their tax money is going, what bills and laws are being considered."
The Web site features history-making events such as the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon debates and President Bush's statements for the original reasons for going to war against Iraq, Peterson says.
The bus will remain on the road this summer.
C-SPAN has two buses. They will be following President Bush and Sen. John Kerry as their presidential campaigns heat up; the buses will also be at the Democratic and Republican national conventions, debates, and covering election-night events.