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Cross Creek teacher makes presidential election debate topic for class

Friday, Sept. 7, 2012 5:49 PM
Last updated Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012 2:53 AM
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Ina Hammond isn’t old enough to say it on a ballot in November, so she settled with venting to her Cross Creek High School government class Friday morning.

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Senior Mykea Hart waits her turn to speak during a debate about speeches at the Democratic and Republican national conventions.  EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
Senior Mykea Hart waits her turn to speak during a debate about speeches at the Democratic and Republican national conventions.

“I think Obama cares for people as a whole, while Mitt Romney cares about certain people,” Ina said.

As if on cue, the statement prompted a rush of responses from her classmates. Hands flew into the air to interject while Advanced Placement Government and Politics teacher John Baker looked on with a smile.

His plan was working perfectly.

With the U.S. presidential election unfolding in front of his students’ eyes, Baker is taking the national political landscape and using it as a tool in the classroom. His AP government students, mostly freshmen and seniors, watched Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s speech at his party’s national convention last week and compared it with President Obama’s speech Thursday at the Democratic National Convention.

The exercise was to make students think about each man’s agenda and form an opinion based on their messages.

Though none of the 10 government students will be old enough to vote in November, the opinions were as loud as a vote.

“Romney’s not telling how to fix it,” Mykea Hart said about the nation’s troubles. “Obama is telling us how he’s going to fix the education. … He’s basically telling you, ‘I’m telling you what’s wrong with America and I’m going to tell you how to fix it.’ ”

The group touched on what each candidate would offer for education, the economy, gay marriage and women’s rights.

Almost all agreed that the country’s welfare system needs help and that too many people are depending on government aid without looking for work.

“People’s priorities are not set straight,” Jamesha Ferguson called out, adding that she sees people using Electronic Benefit Transfer cards at grocery stores while wearing fancy sneakers and name-brand clothing.

Philecea Hayden agreed but said some of the country’s poor genuinely need assistance. Ina interjected, saying she felt some poor people get pregnant for the government paycheck and never work to better themselves.

“But there are those people who have to be dependent,” Philecea said. “I don’t think you should necessarily cut food stamps all the way, but make it like WIC is.”

Baker pushed the students to stay objective and think about real solutions each candidate was offering.

Analyzing the speeches, the class agreed that Obama vowed to hire more teachers and cut tuition for college students while Romney barely touched on education in his speech.

Mykea noticed that Obama in some ways admitted his faults and apologized for not fulfilling all his promises. She admired the honesty, but wondered whether America would see more change with four more years.

As far as Romney’s economic plans, they joked about the suspicions being spread about the Republican nominee.

“Kill the black people, tax the poor, get rid of all women, get rid of all immigrants,” Mykea said. “Also, he doesn’t care about education, so drop out of school and have babies.”

They pointed out the candidates’ differences on health insurance but didn’t get into the specifics of Obama’s health care law. It seems that Romney wants to change the health care law altogether, students said, but Baker reminded them to think bigger.

“Wait a minute now; you have to be objective,” Baker said. “Maybe he was saying we can do better on our own with private insurance rather than mandated insurance.”

Shortly before the bell rang and students gathered their books, leaving their opinions to rest, the class touched on women’s rights and their role in the economy.

While the three boys in the class said they’d rather stay out of it, the class agreed women should have the choice to pursue a career or be a stay-at-home mom, no matter who is president.

“I have dreams of my own,” Amy Greene said. “I want to be the best black OB-GYN in history. I don’t want to be known for baking cookies.”

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soapy_725 09/07/12 - 06:01 pm
Amazing how little smoke it takes

to mask the truth. I like Obama. Even though he lied about what he would do if elected. I do not like Romney because I THINK he will not do what he has said he would do. Obama is a poor, common, hard working, every peoples man. Romney is an uncaring multimillionaire. And thus we move farther into the "show over substance". American Idol Elections. When all of the world is a game, why not play at life.

soapy_725 09/07/12 - 06:12 pm
Obama is a god.

In four years he has set all political prisoners free.
In four years he had drastically increased the buying power of ordinary citizens.
In four years he has brought about world peace and the end of conflicts.
In four years he has brought all of our combat forces home.
In four years he has eradicated hunger by planting a garden at the WHITE HOUSE.
In four years he has made the USA energy independent.
In four years he has raised the level of academia for all USA students.
In four years he has made dozens of trips to the Denver International Airport. The home of the underground Masonic Enclave.
In four short years he has made the dream of MLK a reality.
In four short years the rates of inner city crime have become almost nil.
In four short years by his leadership example Black men are becoming standup guys and paying child support in record amount.

avidreader 09/08/12 - 09:46 am
Touchy Subject!

This is a touchy subject, even for an AP Government class. No matter how adamant a teacher is about contolling the Presidential debate in an objective manner, my experience dictates that in a high school setting, the racial divide will always dominate the rules-of-debate. Most (and yes, I say MOST) high school students will only express political views garnered at the dinner table or in the church pulpit. Very few actually understand the dynamics of our economic woes or the critical nature of unsustainable debt (probably most adults don't either). Most are aware that Mr. Obama was not "perfect" during his four-year reign. The current divide among students now rests upon trust -- can Mr. Obama fix our nation, or is he too far over the edge to make a comeback. The white kids and the black kids all have an opinion about this. Guess where the votes lie?

During this election year, I will avoid the topic in my classroom. Once the students get started, it's a hard topic for a teacher to moderate.

I applaud Mr. Baker at Cross Creek -- he appears to have a grip on a talent that I do not possess. Good luck, Mr. Baker.

OpenCurtain 09/08/12 - 06:36 pm
Hope and Change

I would hope the class had an open and equal discussion
and was not an early Obama indoctrination class.

I am sure many would support any American Government and Civics class taught fairly, evenly, openly and honestly.

But it is important to remember, Peer pressure and other school yard issues are sometimes elevated by such discussions.

scoobynews 09/09/12 - 07:33 am
This is a subject most

This is a subject most college educated students can't handle much less a group of high school kids. I have noticed during CNN student news coverage of the conventions that the black students were very verbable about their support of Obama. It is shame that this election is once again going to be based on race and not merit. I really wish Cain had been able to be the republican nominee because then it would really confused those who vote based on race. I really do wish folks would get their head out of the sand and realize this is not "poor against the rich". It really ticks me off that people think those with money got it without working. That is the difference folks people who have money and keep it have to work for it.

Island Man
Island Man 09/10/12 - 08:55 am
Think Big - Just Be The Best

It's sad that the young person says she wants to be the best black OB-Gyn. Why not the best OB-Gyn?

....also???....“Kill the black people, tax the poor, get rid of all women, get rid of all immigrants,” Mykea said. “Also, he (Romney) doesn’t care about education, so drop out of school and have babies.” It's also sad that these type racial, gender, and other profilings are being taught or condoned in our public high school classrooms.

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