Early Voting: Phillips Students Learn About Democracy in Mock Election
The Stars and Stripes were clanking on the pole outside Phillips Elementary School today. Stirred by a November breeze, they were calling all voters to the mock presidential election taking place inside.
The art room served as the polling place and that seemed fitting. The system coordinated by kindergarten teacher Cassandra Stone-Flomo was a masterpiece.
Class by class, the voters filed in. Fifth graders manned posts to check for registration, pass out ballots, tally votes and slap “I Voted” stickers on their fellow Tiger citizens. Each class took about ten minutes and by the time each finished the next was lined up and ready to cast.
One of the overseers was Nancy Ross, a retired teacher from Park Avenue Elementary, playing the role today of Betsy, the famed designer and seamstress of the original American flag. Surely, Nancy and Betsy are as directly related as the flag with 50 stars is to that first one adorned by only 13.
Phillips Principal Laurel Prior-Sweet took a break from coloring in the election results bar graph to explain that the winner would be determined by an electoral system modeled after the one that will decide the actual winner next Tuesday. Each classroom constituted an elector. Whichever candidate won a class popular vote would get one of the eight electoral votes necessary to be declared the winner.
5th graders Kevin VanAuken and Laura Squiers were excited to be collecting ballots. Last time around, when they were 1st graders, Phillips didn’t hold an election. They grinned at the prospect that they are only two more cycles away from being full-fledged voters in the real thing. In the meantime, this was good practice.
Phillips, along with Jefferson, is one of two “traditional” elementary schools in the district. Besides an extended core knowledge curriculum sequence and increased emphases on dress codes and discipline, among other things, that means the “students gain early exposure to American history and symbols of patriotism,” according to a banner in the main hallway. Accordingly, today’s voting was the culmination of classroom discussion and preparation that’s been underway for weeks. The building is festooned with Americana, right down to the red, white and blue pencils in the voting booths.
Outside the cafeteria was an impressive campaign display, including student essays on the issues they deem most critical. The essays were wide-ranging, all the way from the dangers of loose shoe laces to the importance of lower taxes.
In the end, students at Phillips gave their support to the incumbent President as Barack Obama won the most votes and the electoral college in the mock election. But in the long term, the real winners will be the students having a good lesson in our nation’s democracy.