Tuesday, November 6, 2012

College? Election? What the *#^&?

The Electoral College: a mystery to all children and most adults.

Image Credit: Jeff Jacoby
In the past there have been protests staged and editorials fired off in opposition to it. Despite all the hullabaloo, the system has been around since the ratification of the United States Constitution and does not appear to be going anywhere. So, if many ADULTS don't understand it, how could the average middle school history teacher explain it to a classroom full of 28 of the average American adolescent?

Here's my attempt.

I started class by explaining that the presidential election is special and is decided differently than all other elections.  I explained that it would be almost impossible for my students to avoid election night coverage tonight since all major news outlets will be covering and almost all regular programming will take a back seat.

Political pundits will start making statements like, "Obama has won Massachusetts," and, "Romney has won Texas."  What could they mean?  Don't candidates win votes from individual citizen voters?  How could they win votes from states?

To help with the explanation, we watched a Common Craft video together.


Then, I took a few questions and ensuring that students understood the formula.

2 U.S. Senators + # of U.S. Representative = Total # of Electoral College votes per state

We took a look at an electoral college map from ABC News that will slowly be filled in tonight as the results are reported from the states.  This helped them understand what they will see online and on TV this evening.

Finally, I explained the extra credit assignment for Election Night.

Tonight, as they watch the coverage on TV and scan around online they will have the opportunity to track the results and record them on this sheet.  Of course it is their choice since it is an extra credit assignment, but based on the level of interest during class and the number of questions I received, I'm hoping that most of them choose to participate in this way.  They can't vote, but they can learn about the process so they are ready to vote when they turn 18.