Students’ Debate Predicts President

IPA AP Government students face off as two teams portraying each of the presidential candidates. Pictured (from left) are Laine Bollinger, Jay Hart, Jack Uesugi, Bruce Hobin and Marcus James Miranda. Photo from Kori Shlachter.

Before the presidential election results came in last Tuesday night, Island Pacific Academy teens already had made their decision – at least when it came to the choice between Obama and Romney in a student debate.

Students in IPA teacher Kori Shlachter’s Advanced Placement Government class conducted their own presidential debate Nov. 5, discussing questions that had been posed by schoolmates in grades 9-12.

A self-described political junkie, Shlachter explained that she and a couple of her colleagues came up with the idea as a way for students at the Kapolei private school to learn about the political process and discuss the issues pertinent to this year’s election in a fun, interactive way.

“We were just trying to figure out how we can get our entire student body engaged in what is going on in the world and in our own country, and we thought that this class would provide the perfect forum,” she explained. “We want to get the students to know what is going on and be politically aware. We feel that people in general often don’t know what is going on.”

Four students debated on behalf of each candidate

– each speaker was bolstered by a behind-the-scenes research team comprised of their AP Government classmates. Together, each team planned which issues to present and composed their main arguments.

The AP class, which is comprised of seniors, had been working on this project for nearly three weeks in preparation for debate day. Shlachter said that the project was entirely student run – from deciding which issues to discuss to picking which students would represent which side.

“As a class, we decided that we were going to discuss four major issues, and those were college funding, women’s issues, health care and gay rights,” said Bruce Hobin, who acted as debate moderator.

“From those issues, we took it to the advisories, and the (other students) actually decided what questions to ask those who were representing Obama and Romney.”

The event was truly a schoolwide affair as students from eighth grade on up attended the debate.

After it was over, class members visited each of the IPA’s advisories to explain the process behind the debate. They also walked their fellow students through an explanation of the electoral college. Every student then voted, and each advisory acted as the electoral college.

The students’ votes ended up being a good predictor of the actual election results, as team Obama took both the popular vote, as well as the electoral college vote.

In addition to this event, Shlachter’s class also is busy preparing for the We The People: The Citizen and the Constitution competition, a simulated congressional hearing. The students also kick off each class by discussing current events and what role government will play.

“(The debate) was just another way to showcase and discuss some of the issues that they have been talking about all year,” Shlachter said.

“We are trying to focus on the relevance of government, rather than the AP exam itself,” Shlachter explained. “We are hoping that … they will internalize the information rather than just memorize the information, so they know how it actually affects their lives.”