Only eight members of the 12th grade class at The Bear Creek School (TBCS) are of legal voting age, but everyone in the Upper School division — students in grades 9-12 — was eligible to choose their candidates on Oct. 30, as they participated in the National Student/Parent Mock Election (www.nationalmockelection.org).
In the weeks leading to the mock election, classrooms and hallways at TBCS were buzzing with talk about which presidential candidate would best handle the big issues at stake, such as education, the war in Iraq, the economy, global warming and health care.
Although U.S. government is taught in the spring at TBCS, students in the upper grades have been studying past elections through the history curriculum, said Karen Beman, interim upper school division head.
“How does the political machine work? What were the media influences? How did it play out?” were the kinds of discussions that got kids thinking about the far-reaching impact of the choices they’d be making if they really could vote in this election, Beman explained.
“We’ve tried to create a relevant connection in their life, incorporating their faith skill set and wanting to have a voice to bring to the table. Why this really matters, how a view of the world is shaped, how you exercise your right to influence what happens,” she said.
TBCS is a non-sectarian school that presents its curriculum through a Christian world view, so students are paying close attention to the moral and ethical repercussions of decisions that the candidates might make.
Referring to the faculty at TBCS, Beman noted, “It takes courage to work with kids as they wrestle with the notion of their place in this world.” Students were asked to back their statements about the candidates with facts and data and also to think about the ways their platforms integrated with their family values.
The school newspaper, Bear Creek Current, published a special election issue the day before the mock election.
“Our goal is to provide non-biased profiles and information that can be used by voters to make informed decisions in the 2008 presidential election. Authorship of articles does not indicate political preferences,” was stated on the front page.
Student reporter Adelaide Tillinghast remarked, “The goal is objective journalism. I focused on Obama’s history and legacy and what he is going to bring to our country.”
Another journalism student, Anton van der Stroom, did the same for John McCain.
Also included in the election issue were facts about the gubernational candidates and past presidents.
National Honor Society (NHS) member Tim Hughes made signs about the mock election and put them up throughout the school.
English teacher and NHS advisor Jennifer Acheson said, “I liked that students took ownership of the research on what matters, from their point of view.”
As students came to the polling place, a computer lab in the upper school area, they signed in for verification, got a sticker with a code they’d use to cast their vote online and checked their zip codes to make sure they knew which Congressional district was theirs.
Once online, they voted for their favorite candidates for President, Governor and the House of Representatives, answered a “fun” question and also got to pick which president from history would do the best job of leading our nation today.
After casting her votes, Kira Giger said, “I appreciated this opportunity to see what it’s going to be like when we’re 18.”
Students across America voted in the mock election through Nov. 4.
The TBCS students elected John McCain as president and Dino Rossi as governor.