Schools use election stalemate as teaching tool
At 10:45 a.m. Tuesday in Jason Estabrook’s senior U.S. Government class at Tahoe-Truckee High School, students silently handed in their daily current events assignments.
For the past three weeks, current events, held at the beginning of each class, has generated heated discussions about the most talked about story in the news: Election 2000 and the Florida recount.
Like most government teachers across the nation, Estabrook was excited about the uniqueness of this year’s presidential election. It has made it text-book easy to evaluate the electoral and political process and generate interest among his students. Some discussions early on lasted an entire class period.
But now the students are tired of it.
“The class was split in the beginning,” Estabrook said. “Split right down the line.”
He said the skin-tight election has been a great tool to use.
“But it’s been going on so long, they are tired of talking about it now,” he said. “Now when we talk about it, they get grumpy and cut it off. They’re not asking as many questions now and are more concerned about outcomes.”
The students were immediately curious about the differences between the electoral vote and the popular vote. As a class they studied a map in a newspaper that showed which states in the nation were for Bush and which were for Gore.
“They looked at the map and said, ‘it looks like most of the country is for Bush,'” Estabrook said.
“They felt at the beginning that Gore was going to win the election. Now they see Al Gore as the aggressor trying to win votes.”
He said he tried to give them an unbiased opinion to generate some good arguments in the class.
“I pulled from this we need to take a closer look at process of electing the president of the United States,” Estabrook said. “I think the class realizes the historical significance of this election and they have different opinions on the matter. They see the conflict we’re having as a nation.”
The students admit it has been interesting but now their attention is not holding.
“We were really into it when it first started,” said senior Denelle Pelletier. “We were like ‘he’s gonna win; no, he’s gonna win.’ It made for good argument.”
The day-to-day discussions about the election raised more awareness among some students than they expected.
“I think it has raised a lot of questions about the electoral process,” classmate Courtney Burton said. “I never thought it would ever be that close -it’s amazing it’s that close. It’s interesting, but now it’s so repetitive. I just want it to be over and it seems it’s that way in most peoples’ eyes. In the beginning it was exciting though.”
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