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Pine Students Take In-Depth Look at Politics

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They may not be old enough to vote yet, but that is not stopping Pine Middle School students from becoming experts on everything from the electoral college and environmental policy, to misleading polls and political propaganda.

"How many of you found a negative campaign ad?" math teacher Pam Calhoun asked a room of Pine students. "Which one do you think had the most influence on the voters, positive or negative?"

Politics is a sophisticated subject for middle school students. They are still several years away from voting age, but how much they know about it regardless, is surprising.

"I think that it all just depends on what the candidates are really going to do for our country," Pine sixth grader Peyton Kosman said, "and how they're going to help us do it."

The sixth, seventh, and eighth graders in the Pine Middle School Gifted and Talented program have dedicated the last month to politics. In history, they learned about the electoral college. In science, they studied environmental and energy policy. In math, they learned how to structure a survey and process polling data, and in English, they did a critical review of campaign advertising.

"Americans are subjected to upwards of 3,000 ads a day," Pine English teacher David Slater said, "virtually every one of which is designed to undermine their ability to think critically."

Thinking critically is the goal. For weeks the kids studied wording, color scheme, photo choice, and layout of the influx of ads, surveys, and polls that Nevadans have seen the last few months.

"It kind of startled me because I always believed all the ads that I saw," Pine seventh grader Stephanie Cohen said, "and then, I learned all the different propaganda techniques and it just surprised me a lot."

"There's a lot of ways you can phrase a question to create a bias in your survey without people noticing," Pine eighth grader Alison French said.

Weeks of study make these kids more informed on some issues than a lot of adults.

"If we don't start teaching them young to go beyond, we're going to be in trouble," Calhoun said. "They are going to be so educated and they are going to vote with knowledge and not emotion."

And before they can even have their say, they are ready to make some major changes. They mentioned eliminating the electoral college and putting a stronger focus on science. But until they can do it themselves, they are resigned to just grilling their parents about it.

"After we learned about all this, I talked to my mom and dad," Cohen said, "I was like, 'Are you guys really paying attention to everything each candidate is saying?'"

"I am sure there are millions of people out there who only pay attention to the ads and vote off of those," Pine eighth grader Louis Bubala said, "and I think that it would actually make some change in some elections if they really knew more about the candidates."

On Monday, all Pine Middle School students will participate in a mock election, to choose the next president one day before the country does.

 
Written by Arianna Bennett
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