If it were up to Bridgeport Middle School students, Republican candidate Mitt Romney would become America’s 45th president.
In a mock election Tuesday, 53 percent of the school’s students cast their vote in favor of the former Massachusetts governor, 15 percent more than those for incumbent Barack Obama.One of the majority votes belonged to eighth grader Tyler Banner.
“I voted for Mitt Romney because I’m against things Obama is going for like abortion and same-sex marriage,” he said. “I like Romney’s foreign policy ideas – keeping a few soldiers in Iraq. And I like that he is for entrepreneurs and opening more small businesses.”
Classmate Jenna Grace agreed.
“I voted for Mitt Romney because Obama promised a lot of things and wouldn’t stick with it,” she said. “Nobody likes a liar, so why should we have one as president?”
One of the dissenting votes belonged to Bryce Powers, who was once a Romney supporter.
“My vote would have been for Mitt Romney, but after we did this research, I changed to Obama,” he said. “I don’t agree with (Obama’s) view on abortion, but that doesn’t really affect me. When it gets to the issues that do affect me – like taxes and if I’m injured, how much money I can get – I agree with Obama.”
In an unconventional manner, eighth grader Chase Williams cast his vote for the Libertarian Party’s candidate, Gary Johnson.
“A lot of his policy follows the rules of my religion,” said the eighth grader, who is Catholic and whose father is Baptist.
The eighth graders had been focusing on the election in their English/language arts class the past couple of weeks. They made campaign posters endorsing a presidential candidate, and last Thursday, the students partook in a presidential-style debate.
But unlike with the posters, the students could not choose which candidate’s platform to research for the debate. Each student drew the name of a candidate, and the class was split in two accordingly. Each side had two minutes to answer questions about education, health care and taxes asked by their teacher, acting as the moderator.
“They didn’t know what questions would be asked,” said teacher Larry Owens. “But they knew their stuff. The debates in most classes were very close. It would be hard to determine a winner. Both sides were able to debunk whatever the other side was saying. It was a great way for them to learn to decipher what is fact and what is opinion and how the media portrayed each candidate.
“That was one of my goals,” he continued. “To focus on the bias of the media. The media is a perfect example of how voters can be persuaded. It was interesting to see how many changed who they were voting for after they did their research for the various assignments.”
As part of the lessons in the unit, students formulated their own platforms with issues pertinent to them and topics they observe “as hurting our country,” as one student put it. Those speeches were presented Tuesday.
Topics in Owens’ third-period Pre-AP class ranged from “making medicine and health care cheaper” to cafeteria food and standardized testing.
As each student presented, classmates provided valid feedback.
In his speech, eighth grader Jake Martinez firmly stood behind a no-tolerance policy for bullying.
“Suicide is awful, and unfortunately it’s a growing problem.” he said. “In 1980, there were 20,000 suicides reported. That number has doubled. Last year, there were 41,000. Do you know what the biggest difference is? Social networks.
“Bullies and hackers have unlimited access to victims,” he continued. “Online bullying cannot be tolerated. It is cruel. And I will make sure that there is cruel punishment to turn their grin upside down, and people can live safe in cyberspace. After all, it is a second world most of us live in.”
Classmate Nathaniel Strother questioned the constitutionality of his plans.
“You said cruel punishment for the bullies,” he said. “The eighth amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.”
“Well I’d make sure they were punished. Maybe not cruel, but they would be punished,” Martinez rebutted.
His platform also included making college more accessible by “lowering prices, giving more scholarships and opening more colleges.”
“If you make college more accessible and everyone goes to college, who is going to do the dirty work?” one classmate asked.
“Who will cook the fries at McDonald’s?” another inquired.
“Not everyone will go to college, even if you do everything to get them there,” Martinez responded. “I’m just trying to help those that really want to go.”
From a more localized standpoint, Williams targeted school lunches in his speech.
“That’s a huge topic in our school,” he said. “The food is terrible. They’re trying to make it healthy, but it’s just disgusting. I would start a new section in colleges to teach people how to be school chefs, professional chefs. They would learn how to make food that is still healthy and is also good.”
Grace offered additional advice.
“I would suggest that they make the main dish healthy instead of the pizza with a big puddle of grease in the middle,” she said.
Classmate Julia Garcia addressed bullying and teenage depression.
“I would open government-funded institutions to help teenagers overcome their depression and let them know there are other choices,” she said. “I was looking online and found that one teen commits suicide every 100 minutes. That’s bad. Teens are the future of this country, and the future of this country is dying away.”
And as the future of the country themselves, these students understand the importance of voting based on the effect the debatable issues may have on them, now and in the future.
“Some of these issues may not affect us now,” Askley Lennard said. “But we are the future generation. It could affect us then.”
Perhaps classmate Javier Diaz best explained it with this analogy.
“We have to take care of our current crops – our parents – but we can’t focus on them so much that we don’t pay attention to the seeds – us, the future generation – waiting to be planted. If you do, you leave a silo full of seeds to die and go to waste.”