by Mike Kaechele
Welcome to the Party!
This election cycle promises to be one of the more divisive elections that we have witnessed. The nominees from the two major parties are both widely disliked, as this data from FiveThirtyEight.com shows. Recent polls show that the majority of people are voting against a candidate that they despise, rather than for a candidate that they believe in. The popularity of “outsider” candidates such as Trump, Sanders, Carson, and Cruz demonstrates that many Americans are fed up with the “business as usual” establishment and want something different. Most of the rhetoric coming out of the two camps focuses on personal attacks, rather than policy.
What an opportunity for educators to teach students about political activism, important issues, third parties, and civility!
I and my colleagues have created a project we want to invite you to join: the #MyParty16 Election Project In this project students will learn about the U.S. election process while creating their own political parties. Students will also investigate civility and practice it by discussing political ideas in your class. Each group will choose three to five core issues to build their party around. Then they will choose a name, design a logo, and write up a party platform. Students will film thirty-second campaign ads around one of their core platform beliefs. “Primary” elections will be held at each participating school. We encourage you to invite in local politicians and political pundits to help judge and give feedback to the students. At our school the top ten parties give two minute stump speeches before the final voting.
The “primary” winner from each school will compete against other schools across the country. The top five candidates will participate in an online debate via Google Hangout with a celebrity moderator and the national winner will be announced Monday, November 7th, the day before the actual election.
The #MyParty16 Election Project is ideal for any social studies or English class. It meets many Common Core standards.
In U.S. History, students could focus on the icons of the two major parties, FDR and Reagan. They could investigate how the New Deal tried to fix the Great Depression and how Reaganomics tried to fix the stagflation of the 1970’s. Then they could decide which philosophical approach they think would work best today.
In World History, students could study forms of government throughout history tracing from feudalism and monarchy to capitalism and democracy. They could compare the United States system to others such as fascism, communism, and socialism.
The ties to Government class are many with the electoral process, gerrymandering, the two party system, and many more. Students would learn these concepts by actually doing them.
In an ELA class, students could read classics such as Animal Farm, 1984, or Lord of the Flies and discuss the different kinds of government and its role in society. The commercials address Common Core speaking and listening standards as students have civil and democratic discussions around election issues.
In a math class statistics could be looked at from sites such as fivethirtyeight.com. In science, students could focus on controversial issues such as climate change. In a digital media class students could analyze persuasive ads.
The #MyParty16 Election Project is flexible to fit almost any curriculum, yet it is Project Based Learning so it actively engages students into the very relevant election process with an authentic product. Teachers from around the country who participated in the #MyParty12 Election Project told us that their students got excited about political issues and can’t wait to launch this year’s party. We hope that you and your students will join the party too!
Do you have questions or comments about this project? Please enter them below.