“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.”