Friday, November 10, 2000

Vote a lesson they'll never forget

Tristate students seeing history in the making

By Lori Hayes and Jennifer Mrozowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Forget the textbooks. Turn on the TV.

        As the 2000 presidential election grips the country, the suspense and rarity of this historic drama has Tristate teachers putting aside lesson plans and turning to CNN and newspapers to teach how a president is elected.

        As the nation's attention focuses on Florida, students are firing questions and debating the merit of the political process, perhaps never so excited to learn about voter fraud, absentee ballots and the Electoral College.

[photo] Lebanon High School students Chelsea Roemisch (left) and Michele Satchell study a newspaper Thursday.
(Michael Snyder photo)
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        “A lot of kids are fascinated by it,” said Richard Raabe, an American history teacher at Dixie Heights High School in Kenton County. “They're asking lots of questions that under normal circumstances nobody would ask.”

        It's history in the making, Glenn Matuszewski said to her political science class at Beechwood High School in Fort Mitchell.

        “This may be the only time this happens in their lifetimes,” she said.

        Ms. Matuszewski's stu dents had lots of questions Thursday: What's the confusion over the Florida ballot? Why is the vote recount taking so long? Does the Electoral College really work?

        They have studied the details of democracy, but now they're seeing that debate play out in homes, lunchrooms and offices.

        “It makes it more real to them,” she said.

        Lebanon High School students in Jay Meno's government class strayed from their regular lesson to tackle the day's issues. “There's a lot of problems with our electoral process,” Mr. Meno said.

        Students questioned why some voting booths aren't computerized, why ballots are different county-to-county and challenged the media's release of exit poll results before polls are closed everywhere.

        While the class discussed solutions to the voting process, two students debated the design of the contested Palm Beach County, Fla., ballot.

        “I think it's pretty easy to read,” said Chelsea Roemisch, 16.

        Chimed in Michele Satchell, 17: “I think you should have the same ballot for every state.”

        Mr. Raabe's students always spend time talking about current events, but those discussions have grown much longer as he uses the election to teach about other examples in history.

        In Noel Rash's geography classes at Beechwood, students have been looking at how demographics affect elections, watching the news coverage and analyzing maps that show where each candidate won the most votes.

        “If there ever was an election that tells you that your vote counts, this one does,” he said.

        Beechwood senior Brandon Schilling, 17, said much of the interest is because most people just don't understand the political process.

        “That's how the Constitution was written,” he said. “That's how it's been done for 200 years.”


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