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High schools to stage mock debate

ABHUTCHISON, Sierra Sun

The general public perception is that teenagers are apathetic when it comes to politics and being involved with government.

Teachers and students at area high schools have set out to reverse that ideology by organizing a simulated presidential debate and election fair next week.

“I thought it would be a good idea to refute the prevailing information out there that kids are apathetic,” Tahoe-Truckee High School American Government teacher Patti McCaffrey said. “There is a low voter turnout among people between the ages of 18 and 30. I thought this would be a good way to get students involved.”

McCaffrey focused on the election this semester, pushing her students to get involved and interested in political issues.

She called teachers at North Tahoe and Incline Village High Schools and organized the debate as a non-athletic competition between schools. TTHS students will impersonate Democratic candidate Al Gore, NTHS students will be Green Party candidate Ralph Nader and IHS students will be Republican candidate George W. Bush and Libertarian candidate Harry Browne.

In her own class, McCaffrey noticed a change in her students as the election drew closer, and the students became involved in their own version of the debates.

“They get more passionate about it as they get more informed,” McCaffrey said.

Government students will be involved as researchers, speech writers, debate ushers, debate moderators and proposition workers. TTHS ROP TV students will broadcast the debate live Oct. 25 on Truckee cable Channel 6.

TTHS senior Manny Parker said she is looking forward to the debate and being Al Gore for an evening.

“I never really cared much about politics before, but this class made me think that, hey, I can make a difference,” Parker said. “This class has made me realize there are some issues out there I should care about.”

Classmates David Brooks, Emily Feliciano and Bryan Richmond also volunteered to be Al Gore in the debate. They said they have been studying current events and reading newspaper articles to learn about issues that are of interest to them.

Issues debated in the event will include: education, defense/foreign policy, health care, abortion, capital punishment, gun control and the environment.

“We need to get involved in our political situations,” said Richmond, who added he was more supportive of Al Gore. “Mainly I support Gore because I don’t like Bush’s views on abortion.”

Parker said her candidate of choice right now is Ralph Nader.

“Because he seems more for the people by the people,” she said.

“I don’t like Bush. He sweet talks everyone and I don’t trust him,” Brooks said.

Although none of the three will be of legal voting age by Nov. 7, all said they would vote if they could.

Because the students have been watching the presidential debates thus far very closely, they said they want to focus on the issues that haven’t been debated yet.

Prior to the debate, students from all three schools will organize an election fair and help distribute material to the public on the propositions that will be on the ballot and other election information. Truckee and North Tahoe students will cover California initiatives and Incline students will present Nevada initiatives.

“The kids will be presenting the seven ballot propositions and handing out fact sheets to the public, who can then ask the kids questions,” McCaffrey said, adding the event is a way to get the entire community involved in the election process.

The public in attendance will evaluate the students after the debate with a rubric, which student ushers will distribute and collect.

The election fair and debate will be held in the Truckee-Tahoe High School auditorium on Wednesday, Oct. 25. The fair will begin at the high school at 6 p.m. and the debate is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m.


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