Saturday, October 23, 2004

Students bring election to class

Bush, Kerry roles get school talking

By William Croyle
Enquirer staff writer

ERLANGER - Many schools are holding mock presidential debates, but some students at Lloyd Memorial High School have taken the process to a new level.

Dayton High School: Bush 150, Kerry 114, Nader 8
North Pointe Elementary: Bush 541, Kerry 147
Ryle High School: Bush 750, Kerry 178, Nader 140
Simon Kenton High School: Bush 657, Nader 210, Kerry 187
Adam Hartke posed as President Bush and Christina Kaaz was U.S. Sen. John Kerry in a 45-minute debate Friday. It was the seniors' second debate, with a third scheduled before the public next week.

Preparations began in May when students in Todd Novak's advanced placement government class chose sides and volunteered to be candidates, campaign managers and researchers. They planned strategies this summer while following the real campaigns.

As in the real presidential debates, Hartke and Kaaz hit on key issues, from the war in Iraq to gay marriage. Neither hesitated to criticize the other's stances.

"If John Kerry and his liberal friends were running the country (in the 1700s), we'd still be sipping tea, paying a stamp tax and bowing to the King of England," said Hartke.

Kaaz didn't back down. "President Bush speaks of making America more safe," she said. "This is hard to believe when 4,000 immigrants a day come over the Arizona border alone."

Their campaigns have been mostly positive - but not always.

"There's definitely been some negative campaigning," said Novak. "There have been instances of signs coming down and P.A. announcements targeted at the opposing candidate. But hey, that's how campaigns are run today."

Novak assigned each class at Lloyd and Tichenor Middle School a state. When students vote next week, the winner will be decided by electoral votes. Hartke and Kaaz have visited a class a day, preaching and answering questions.

Dr. J. Michael Thomson, interim chair of the political science and criminal justice department at Northern Kentucky University, said more civics teaching like this is needed in Kentucky schools.

"For a state that has a lot of counties and a lot of politics, there's a disconnect there," said Thomson. "Other states require more civic education than we do. We don't see a direct connection between politics and the school curriculums."

Outside of their campaigns, Hartke and Kaaz are good friends. They're both 17 and can't vote yet.

Senior Chase Autry, 18, is a registered, undecided voter. He said Hartke and Kaaz have not swayed him, but have done a lot of good.

"There's a debate every day in every class. Students argue and it gets crazy," said Autry. "But we're having a good time with it."

The final debate will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Dietz Auditorium. It's open to the public. Students will vote on Thursday.


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