Election Dissection

Candidates IraqThis is the day before the election.

In recent days, Elon participated in a scientific survey of college students in swing states conducted by CBS News, UWIRE and The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The random-sample survey of 1,150 Elon students revealed that about two-thirds support Barack Obama and one-third support John McCain.

Because emotions on both sides have been running high, a campus organization asked about a dozen faculty members and administrators to offer advice on what to do in class the day after the election.

A gentle English professor wrote that her first-year class has the theme of individual responsibility, “so one of the things that we will talk about is how exercising individual responsibility is important but does not always result in the outcome that we want.”

Conversely, a no-nonsense business professor said his class will follow the syllabus as planned, adding, “If people act out, I’ll rein them in. If they’re depressed, I’ll notify counseling.”

Here is my response on the eve of the election:

“If I were teaching the day after Election Day, I would spend the opening minutes in class addressing the importance of a national event such as a presidential election. One way is to engage students in a conversation about media coverage or their own media consumption patterns on election night. For instance, television historically has been ‘our national gathering place’ for events such as 9/11 or presidential elections. Is that still true for today’s students, or were they instead following the election online or through handheld devices while engaged in other activities?

“This approach keeps the conversation on a neutral plane rather than focusing on winners and losers. Virtually every class at the university will contain students on both sides. Those who supported losing candidates most likely will be quiet the day after, and they certainly don’t want to hear gloating from the winning side. That’s the benefit of acknowledging the importance of Election Day in class and looking for a way to talk about it from a learning point of view rather than a political point of view.”

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Explore posts in the same categories: Media and Politics, Students, Teaching

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