Rather than write a paper or do a presentation in their classroom, junior and senior AP U.S. Government students personified the 2016 presidential candidates for a mock debate in front of hundreds of students.
"I do the presidential primary debates in the spring of an election year and then I do the presidential debates right before the presidential election," shared teacher Angela Ruffolo. "I can only do these debates every four years. In the off years, our students do either debates in class or mock debates when we go to the State House in the late spring."
Prior to the debate, the AP students researched the candidates on how they presented themselves in interviews and where they stood on the issues.
"While preparing for the debate, I learned a great deal about how our nation chooses candidates and how voting, the electoral college, and campaigning all tie together," reflected Sam Ruff '17.
Caroline Delaney '18 added , "Researching for the debate really showed me a lot about how our nation is run. I learned that, when people vote for president, they are not actually directly voting for their candidate, rather a representative who will, in turn, vote for the candidate. I also learned just how many topics that different candidates are forced to learn about, know about, and form an opinion on. It is amazing just how much they are expected to know and be able to talk about at the drop of the hat."
During the debate, the students worked in teams, with each candidate being represented by two or three students, alongside a few of their classmates who acted as researchers for the candidate. Other classmates served as the moderators for the debate.
"It was nice because I enjoy public speaking and presentations compared to writing a paper," Jake Jagels '18 said. "I feel you get to learn more by being the candidate and from that, you can see how the candidates feel about the issues and learn the electoral process a lot better."
Noah Mussin Phillips '17 agreed, "This assignment was, for me at least, a lot more fun than doing a research paper. I got to dress snazzy and talk on stage instead of doing lots of studying."
Teachers from other classes brought their students to listen to the debates in the CJ auditorium. Afterwards, students were asked to cast a vote not on who they would vote for in real life necessarily, but rather who they felt won the mock debate based upon how the student candidates presented themselves and their arguments.
"I think the debates really bring the research to life," Ruffolo emphasized. "Students enjoy the interaction of a debate, and they like to see how their classmates handle things as compared to what they all watched on TV for the real presidential and vice presidential debates."
Students who participated in the debate said they felt they made an impact from their presentations.
"It's very clear that my classmates and I learned a lot about the platform of current presidential candidates," Ruff reflected. "It is very crucial for students to get involved in forming their opinions and getting involved in government. Perhaps some older students will now have a more informed decision when it comes to voting on November 8th."
"Hopefully, the debate motivated everyone to get informed on the candidates and vote if they can," Mussin Phillips added.
Delaney noted, "I hope that everyone will be able to get themselves involved in politics, or at least learn about what goes in to politics. Politics is sometimes a very drab and boring subject, but it is very important for all people. You must be able to understand how policies are made and enforced, and how the political system works. You have to know these things because you are involved in them every day, and they affect you every day. Politics is an important aspect of life that everyone needs to be educated about."
Posted November 8, 2016