Tensions were high in our daily team meetings the last several days, mostly due to the election. My team is a volatile mix of right-wing conservatives, moderates, left-wing liberals, and indifferent independents such as myself. You might as well throw a grenade in the room as start talking politics in school. In the last week there have been fierce debates about health care, taxes, marijuana, and surprisingly, road improvement. As funny as it is to hear a group of teachers debating the pros and cons of smoking ganja, when I posed the question of the legality of voter ID laws, I might as well have pulled the pin and walked away. Explosive.
What Teachers Do on Election Night
All across America on election night, teachers were glued to their TV sets to find out whether the world will be plunged into a thousand years of darkness or whether their side will be found victorious to fix America within the next four years. But mostly, we drank.
Some of us gathered with friends and sipped champagne while watching the states being called by some perfectly manicured pundit; others played drinking games, taking a shot for every state won by whatever party (which judging from some of the hangovers the next day is not a great idea). Either way, we teachers drank to knowing that whoever wins, education will remain a mess for the next four years.
At our own middle school, there were three elections this week of our own to celebrate the democratic process: the school mock election, the student council election, and an after school club election—all very presidential.
The Mock Election
Our school’s mock election was actually pretty B.A. One of the social studies teachers went through the trouble of setting up a very realistic electoral format in which the students had to register to vote, were issued voter registration cards, had precincts, an electoral college, and stood in long lines to cast their votes on election day.
Now, even though I live in a very red state, I teach in a a neighborhood that is blue collar, heavily hispanic, and hungry for opportunities to live and work in the future. Unsurprisingly, the students elected Barack Obama in a landslide 80% of the popular vote and overwhelming majority in the electoral college.
I’ll tell you this: these students (many of whom will never get to vote) have a better understanding of our political system than a great deal of U.S. citizen voters.
Student Council Elections
There were two candidates in the school’s student council elections this week as well (we’ll never get past a two party system, will we?). One—an African-American girl. The other—a Hispanic boy; both of them—eighth graders who are involved and well respected by students and staff alike.
It was a tight race. There were posters, promises, and political savvy. The boy won by a narrow margin, pledging to bring our school a mascot for sports games.
There were, however, three write-in votes for Pedro.
As a co-sponsor for Amnesty International, we held our elections this week for president and vice president. There were quite a few candidates, and they each had to write a speech.
The vice presidential candidates brought the best and worst speeches I’ve ever heard by a young person:
The first was by a young lady who obviously took the speech writing lesson I previously gave to heart. It was personal, inspiring, and powerful. She even included some style from Nancy Duarte. It really blew everyone away, and had she run for president, she may have won.
The second speech was by a young lady who decided she would “wing it”. Bad, bad, bad idea. She started off okay talking about how she liked helping people, but somehow she quickly degraded into a completely neurotic, self-destructive word vomit wherein she pledged, among other things, to mostly stop lying and stealing unlike her good-for-nothing brother. It was like watching a train wreck in slow motion. Still, she was brave. Or crazy.
The presidential speeches were somewhat more leveled:
- The first speech was by a girl who basically told people to vote for her because she was “awesome”. (the popular vote)
- The second girl invited a vote because she never missed meetings and was dependable. (the moderate vote)
- The third (my favored candidate) wrote a well-written and moving speech that equalled the vice presidential speech about the need for us to fight valiantly for the rights of the oppressed and call our fellow schoolmates to join in this endeavor. (the MLK vote)
- The fourth girl simply promised that if they voted for her that she would bring cookies, snacks, and donuts to each meeting.
Of course the fourth girl won. She had learned the true power of politics–empty promises.