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Middle School Student Inquiry: Election 2008

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The 6th and 7th graders have been studying the upcoming presidential elections. The focus of the last 2 weeks was on the process of selecting a new president. We learned about how states contribute a different number of points – or “electoral votes” – to the candidate. We followed this up by learning how to distinguish between the two major party candidates which enabled us to make informed predictions how the battleground states will vote. To help us further in this quest, we studied gallup polls and important demographic data about the swing states. For example, we examined the gender, racial/ethnic components, who the states’ elected officials were, how the state voted in recent presidential elections, and the states’ median age.

To help understand the issues being discussed by the candidates and the media, we read a chapter from “People’s History of the United States” which described the past 2 terms of the outgoing president. Students wrote essays where they evaluated the accomplishments and struggles of the Bush administration. Our next endeavor is to use a well known 19th century painting called “The County Election” by the painter George Caleb Bingham to study larger issues about Democracy. We will look at the risks and perils of opening up the democracy to greater numbers of citizens. Students will examine how voting law reforms have allowed more people to be included in the selection process of their elected officials. Who is still excluded? What restrictions are necessary to protect the process?

We will continue to monitor the polls and make predictions as we approach Nov.4 elections.

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