Classroom Connection: Our Student Contributors
Both presidential candidates are paying a great deal of attention to Ohio's voters in this presidential election. Are today's kids also paying attention? Election Central's Classroom Connection gets to know some Ohio students to see if their political interest and knowledge are up or down in this election year.
Credit: David Kohl/AP Images

Classroom Connection: Our Student Contributors

Because Election Central was created as a way to offer student-centric coverage of current events, campaigns, elections and civics, it only made sense that we would eventually bring on students as guest contributors. In the next few weeks, you will find articles written by AP Government students from Worthington Kilborne High School in Worthington, Ohio, a suburb of the capital city of Columbus.

The following article is based on responses provided by the WKHS students during a classroom visit.

An Introduction

The participants in Classroom Connection are two Advanced Placement Government classes, 56 Juniors and 1 Senior. These students enrolled in this class because they have a strong interest in government and politics. The classes are made up of 21 females and 36 males; 43 white and 14 non-white ethnic minorities (including African American, Hispanic American, Asian American, or Middle Eastern American). They come from middle-class to upper-middle-class neighborhoods.

So far, the classes have  focused their study on the philosophical foundations of the U.S. government, the writing and ratification of the Constitution, the federalist system in theory and practice, U.S. political culture, and the political spectrum.

These students are required to spend 10 hours of this first semester engaged in political service work or observation. Many are spending time working on the presidential campaigns.  Many students have made phone calls, gone door-to-door, and attended rallies for both presidential candidates.

The students are led by teacher, Lauren Glaros, who earned a BA in History and Political Science from the University of California, Davis and a MA in Education from Stanford. Her lifelong interest in politics include volunteering for her Congressman while she was in high school, interning in Washington, DC, volunteering at a party convention in 2000, being elected as a delegate to attend a convention on behalf of a presidential candidate in 2004, and serving as a volunteer for many local, statewide and national races.

When Election Central met with these students to talk about a collaboration, they agreed to engage in a discussion and complete surveys so that we might get to know them better. Here’s how they responded:

How much attention do you pay to politics?

Many students answered in the range of “a fair amount to a lot.” Many added that they pay more attention when there is a big story in the news or during elections. Many read or watch the news or rely on family to get information and are able to participate in these discussions with some or much depth of understanding.

Every other day, a student opens class with a discussion of a current issue or event. Almost all students watched the first presidential debate and most watched the vice presidential debate. Students are willing to express their views. Many students are learning to back up their views with further explanation and evidence. They are learning to view events more from an analytical perspective, rather than only an ideological perspective. Students are definitely willing to engage in debate on controversial issues, but they speak to one another civilly and appropriately.

Are you more interested in national or local politics?

Nearly all of the students expressed a preference for national politics, although many acknowledged the importance of local government.

Are you a conservative, liberal, or independent?

As you might expect from a swing state like Ohio, the two classes are very split in terms of their political beliefs. Most of the students identify their political views as conservative, followed very closely by liberals. There are a few independents, a Libertarian, and one self-proclaimed “National Socialist” rounding out the list. (Though we’re pretty sure this was a joke.)

A few students said they liked and disliked aspects of both Republicans and Democrats. Students suggested they might be “leaning” one particular direction but weren’t sure yet. Again, pretty typical of a battleground state.

What would you change about how politics operates?

This question generated the most varied response. Generally speaking, these students would like to see the government operate with more efficiency and less corruption. They would also like to see less negativity among political party candidates, as well as less influence from the media.

Who is your favorite president?

In a tight race for first place, Abraham Lincoln edged out Ronald Reagan by a single vote. George Washington was the nation’s first president, but he only came in third amongst our Classroom Connection students. John F. Kennedy and Teddy Roosevelt tied for fourth. Franklin D. Roosevelt was the only White House resident to be elected to four terms. But that only helped him finish fifth in this poll. Andrew Jackson and Richard Nixon rounded out the list of those suggested with a single vote each.

Considering that these presidents came from both major political parties (and in Washington’s case, from before there were official political parties), what does this tell us? The specific reasons for why these men were chosen out of all the presidents were varied, many students seem to gravitate to those presidents who had strong personalities (such as Andrew Jackson, Teddy Roosevelt or Ronald Reagan) or were impressed by those presidents who faced and overcame big challenges (such as FDR and Lincoln). Or they picked the presidents who were the most historically memorable (such as Washington, Kennedy, or Nixon).

What is your opinion of the U.S. Congress?

Opinions of Congress were generally positive, although many students suggest that our current legislative system stands to be improved. Many said it takes too long of a time to get things accomplished and that differing party politics get in the way of being efficient. Some believe there are Congressman who put their own agenda above the national one.

Where do you typically go to find political news?

These students access news in a variety of ways. Among the most popular news shows are CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, C-Span, NBC Nightly News and CBS Evening News, Sunday morning news shows (such as Meet the Press or Face the Nation), and the local newspaper, The Columbus Dispatch.

The other most popular periodicals are The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Time and Newsweek. A few get their news from the radio. Among the most popular internet news sources are Yahoo! News and the Drudge Report.

The students of Worthington Kilborne High School are excited to have their thoughts and ideas posted online and hope that they can draw a large audience for their writing.

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David Martin

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