The eighth grade elections unit is an assignment. It’s a huge assignment, a radically creative and difficult assignment, but an assignment nonetheless. What makes the assignment so different than any other is that it requires you to get people to engage, to care about what they are doing. A good grade depends on your ability to connect with students in other grades and have insight into school, city and statewide issues. For once your academic success has nothing to do with your intelligence, but rather with other’s perception of you and your social intuition.
Our eighth grade election assignment was based around the same time as the national elections. Students were supposed to gain insight into how hard it is to get people to vote for them as well as pay more attention to current events. So while President Obama and Governor Romney were talking about outsourcing and taxes, eighth graders were trying to win votes by promises of longer lunches and less homework.
Besides the obvious difference in target audience, the eighth grade elections were if course on a much smaller scale.
Campaigning for funds, or “campaign dollars” was the first challenge presented to the eighth grade class. While it’s unclear if funding for the national elections work the same s way, getting middle school campaign dollars requires a lot of pleading, bribery and ice cream (or lollipops or baked goods).
Next, the “parties” had to get their issues out to their fellow middle schoolers. This was accomplished through posters, buttons, speeches, commercials and/or websites. All of this publicity was financed by the campaign dollars each party gained through bribery. And even if the posters and buttons gained some support, no one in the elected parties knew quite how to go about making the changes their parties put forth in the first place.
There were around nine or ten parties, all of which had there own platforms and goals. For instance, The Right Direction party believes in the arts, is pro-environment and believes in animal and women’s rights. The FRS party believes in grade equality and longer study halls.
National elections are similar in that all political platforms seem to promise so much, yet in reality, passing laws is hard – and everyone has to want to make it happen. The most effective laws seem to be made during wartime or during emergencies, when the country’s real needs brings everyone together.
Maybe a way to make eighth grade political parties effective is to find an issue that resonates with every member of the Middle School community. But until then the eighth grade elections will just be an assignment, a huge assignment, a radically difficult and creative assignment, but an assignment nonetheless.
~Illustration by Jessyca D’Oliveira ’19