Senior year at Casady is full of choices big and small. The students are able to tailor their curriculum to their interests, most notably through their English and History seminars. However, this year’s seniors are faced with an additional choice: their vote. Voting is a civic duty that accompanies their coming-of-age, and it can be quite daunting. Luckily, Dr. Bishop offers a course entitled “American Elections” in which students learn about the unique process through which our leaders are appointed, and understand how and why their vote matters.
The upcoming ballot will have many boxes to check, including one regarding the President. However, that’s not the only decision voters will have to make. State questions, representatives, and senators in both the state and federal governments are also a part of the ballot.
This is something that Dr. Bishop recognizes. While reflecting upon his own first voting experience, he recalls that he “left most of the ballot blank” because he knew nothing about the voting process or the candidates up for election.
However, this is not a dilemma that his students currently face. Earlier this trimester, Dr. Bishop’s students completed a project in which they chose an issue they were interested in and profiled each of the candidates and their stances. For example, Kahner Enderby (‘21) and Sydney Sofola (‘21) collaborated on their project and explored the issue of racial injustice. Sofola notes that she was surprised to learn about the minority-party candidates and their stances, noting, for example, Howie Hawkins’ similarities to Bernie Sanders. “[Hawkins] is an advocate for HR-40, which would provide reparations [to African-Americans] for slavery,” adding that HR-40 had been “disregarded by the media and [she] had never heard of it.”
Kahner Enderby also noted that this project taught students how to research political affairs with the challenges of biased media. “We had to be careful with ‘non-partisan’ information and look at the news network’s overall bias,” she says, adding that “it was interesting to see where [the candidates] fall and how they vocalize.” Overall, this project allowed the students to develop the skills of research and active engagement in issues they’re passionate about, which is an integral aspect of the voting process.
The uniqueness of American Elections is what makes voting so puzzling for so many. Enigmatic terms like “primary,” “caucus,” and “the electoral college” are constantly repeated during election cycles, and being unfamiliar with them would make one very lost voter. But not to worry! Dr. Bishop has not treated these concepts lightly, and has even assigned an essay on the electoral college.
After having learned about it in class, the students formed opinions on whether or not it should remain, and had to support their claims with evidence. In class, they explored alternatives to the electoral college, such as proportional allocation, in which delegates are given to a candidate according to the percentage of votes they received instead of the “winner takes all” method of the electoral college. Sofola comments that through this project, she “learned a lot about the process [under the electoral college], and what it means for, say, Democrats in a Red State.” The insight gained through this project not only made students aware of the system under which they’re voting, but also the consequence of their vote.
The various endeavors seniors have undertaken throughout this class have covered a broad range of aspects in the voting process. Whether they’re researching candidates or simply learning how to vote, they’ve been able to form opinions on and become acquainted with the intricacies of their new civic duty. Sofola emphasizes the effect of these projects on her peers, mentioning that “it’s interesting to see how my classmates’ opinions are changing by doing research into each of the candidates, and how they’ve addressed issues.”
This process has been equally exciting for Dr. Bishop, commenting that “it’s heartening to see people engaged in politics and the voting process,” as in recent elections, there hasn’t been optimal voter-turnout. Nonetheless, you can expect to see our newly-enlightened voters at the polls on November 3rd!