Dixville Notch, N.H., the first precinct in the United States to vote in every presidential election, evenly split its 10 votes for president at 12:01 a.m. this morning. But another small group of New Hampshire voters had already cast their ballots in favor of President Barack Obama over challenger Gov. Mitt Romney.
The students of Nashua High School South voted last Friday on who to elect (or who they would elect, since, you know, not real), following a debate held by the AP Government class where students stood as proxies for the candidates. And the class is modeling one of the ways teachers are working to engage students in politics.
While many schools may have mock debates, Nashua has the major advantage of being in one of this election's most closely watched swing states. In an area where finding a candidate only requires sticking your head out the door, the students learned from campaign representatives working on the front lines. AP Government teacher Kathy Johnson says she also gave her students extra credit for participating in the actual campaigns.
"Between class discussions on campaign issues and whatever information they have gathered at the campaign offices, the students were pretty prepared," said Johnson via email.
Johnson has forged a class based heavily on activities, including a Constitutional Convention debate, a congressional committee simulation (where bills get stuck and sit there and wait, if I recall my Schoolhouse Rock correctly), and the yearlong class culminates with an in-class election that will combine all the skills students have thus far learned, including surveying, campaigning, recording ads, performing meet and greets, and staging rallies.
Many non-social studies classes showed up to the debate and followed it enthusiastically, Johnson noted. To better understand the candidates' styles, the class conversed on the school website during the presidential debates. There's video of the presentations, too, courtesy of The Telegraph. (The students apparently picked up on the art of the zinger, too.)
While the class itself split fairly evenly on which students would work on which campaign—Johnson said they got to choose the "team" with which they most agreed—the school had little such balance. Here's the vote breakdown:
Gary Johnson: 36
Ron Paul: 7
Sam Nielson (AP Gov. student): 6
Newt Gingrich: 1
Jill Stein: 1
Strong showing for Nielson! The results are unlikely to be contested by the Romney campaign.