Thursday, November 22, 2012

Bringing post-elections into the curriculum

Have you forgotten? by cgruis8
Was it my imagination, or was there less educational interest in the presidential elections this year than there was in 2008? In the last presidential election my students participated in national education projects like the National Writing Project's Writing our Futures: Letters to the Next President and Video Your Vote by PBS. Maybe I missed it, but it didn't seem like those kind of collaborative ventures for American students happened this time around. This surprised me since I teach a number of politically active teens.

A couple of months ago I wondered how others were bringing the elections into their curriculum. For what it's worth, my students recently completed a writing assignment where they wrote to the recently elected officials in their voting districts. The students identified the issue that mattered most to them, researched it using two different databases, and wrote informed letters to the newly elected. One student whose sister has autism wrote to our governor about the lack of support services for young adults with autism. Another student discovered a winning candidate's stance on immigration reform was one of the main reasons he was narrowly re-elected; this student urged the public servant to listen carefully to the Hispanic electorate's views on legislation like the DREAM Act.

The letter writing assignment was the culmination of careful readings my class and I did of great pieces of American political writing. Here are links to my presentations on the rhetoric of the Declaration of Independence, The Gettysburg Address and Kennedy's Inaugural Address. We examined the rhetoric of these fine pieces of American literature and then the students tried to incorporate similar rhetorical features, where appropriate. The students' letters turned out to be very well written and powerful. Here's more information about the actual assignment.

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