Middle schoolers get schooled in rough and tumble politics

The 2012 United States presidential election is not the only election being currently discussed at our school. Our Middle School is having an election of their own.

The idea of this election came from 8th grade history teacher Aaron Preetam. He decided to arrange this mock election to create awareness in the Middle School of the presidential election and to give students a framework for understanding politics.

This year in their history class, 8th graders have learned about the history of both the Republican and Democratic parties and have studied their platforms. They used this knowledge to create their own platforms for the mock election. Having been assigned into random groups, the students were forced to compromise on certain issues and to decide on a stance and create a clear message for their party. They were required to include an issue relevant to the GFS Middle School, one relevant to Philadelphia, and could include a national issue too if they wanted. Preetam said that he was impressed that “many of the national issues and stances the 8th graders took revolved around gay marriage and gun control.”

The faculty, 6th graders, and 7th graders were each handed out $4 of campaign money and could decide which parties to support. The money was then to be used by the candidates to purchase buttons for 25¢, posters for $3, and commercials for $10. The 8th graders worked hard to earn money from the other grades and teachers, but it got bit out of control. Chloe Smith-Frank ’19 said of the election, “it’s a good idea, but the parties were aggressive and just wanted money. They did not tell us what they stood for.” Other students took this opportunity to take advantage of situation and were able to get access to the 8th grade lounge, by only agreeing to give money if that party allowed them to sit there. Preetam had to reframe this slightly as the fundraising had gotten a bit out of control. He printed the SPICES on the back of the campaign money to remind the students to use integrity and not manipulation when donating.

Though many of the parties had overlapping stances and their ideas were similar, the parties that were most successful were those who had a clear articulated message and who got the most money. While campaigning, the 8th graders were able to learn the importance of money to a campaign. As Preetam had instructed them “Money! Without money your campaign will fizzle and fade into the void.” The recent Wednesday assembly with councilwoman Cindy Bass had also confirmed this when she had stated that she needed $300,000 in order to run and win a seat.

The voting has not taken place yet and Aaron is still working out a way to structure the election, whether it be through a direct vote, or an electoral collage with the homeroom teachers acting as the electors. He hopes to have the voting date be close to the actual voting date for the 2012 presidential election, and that through this process the Middle School students have gotten a taste of how an actual election works. If you happen to pass through the Sharpless building, be sure to take a look at the campaign posters and the different parties of the 8th grade.