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November 8, 2012

A prime time to learn

Students interested in political race; healthy debate encouraged

OTTUMWA — The government teacher didn’t force students to watch the election coverage Tuesday night — but many of them did anyway.

Scott Guest’s class at Ottumwa High School had questions and ideas which mirror those being asked out in the community right now, the teacher said.

Who is going to pay this huge debt we have? What was the final “score” in Florida? It seems like such-and-such an issue was just a distraction. What’s the idea behind “retention” votes? Why do we vote for judges? Who won in Indiana?

But they answered questions, too.

“I was actually nervous when [Mitt] Romney was winning,” said Lidia, one of the students.

“I’m happy with the results,” said another student.

“I’m not,” said a third student.

A classmate agreed, saying she was also unhappy with the outcome.

“I feel like nothing is going to change,” she said.

It can change, said a student named Delia, but “it takes time.”

When asked how teens can tell who is telling the truth and who is lying, answers echoed those of older voters.

“You don’t know who to believe,” said one student.

“Both candidates just tell you what they think you want to hear,” said another.

“And they change what they’re saying [depending upon whom] they’re talking to.”

Other students said they listened to the “plans” presented by the two men: Some of the plans were so bare that they seemed to be more than a goal than a road map: we have to fix Medicare or we must help the middle class.

And some plans just sounded crazy, they said. Trying to force people to buy health insurance? Lowering taxes but not saying how it’ll be done? Some of these things don’t make sense to the students.

“They feel like the country is not a business, it’s a social organization,” said Connor. “You can’t just run it [as if it is] a business. I think someone who’s studied the Constitution would do better than a businessman.”

“I liked Romney because he was a businessman,” argued Jessica, who also said if there’s still a huge debt in four years, [President] Obama is going to have to stop blaming former President George W. Bush.

Another said he found both presidential candidates to be unlikable, and that neither seemed like they’d make the country an improved place to live.

Even that is reflective of the philosophy held by some who have voted for years, Guest told his students.

“You’re not going to like everything about a candidate,” he said.

And yes, sometimes you may end up voting for a candidate you dislike because the other option is a candidate you dislike even more.

There was some class displayed, too, said one student.

“After the voting was over,” said Kevin, “I like how they said they’d work together.”

Though some students disagreed with some of Connor’s earlier comments, he said he thinks arguments can be a good, or at least useful, too — a good way to come up with the best answer. And that, said Guest, is one of the principles the United States was founded on: that we don’t all have to agree all the time.

Not every student answered every question. But there was one overwhelming affirmative response to one of Guest’s questions. Yes, they said, we are glad the election is finally over.

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