That’s the clear take-away from the first Blast polls in this year’s national VOTES Project (Voting Opportunities for Teenagers in Every State), an initiative spearheaded by Northfield Mount Hermon (NMH), a prestigious private school in Massachusetts, and StudySync (www.studysync.com)
The only program of its kind in the country, the VOTES Project brings together more than 100 public and private schools nationwide, as well as schools internationally, to give students a voice in the 2012 election.
The initial VOTES Project Blast polls, fielded in mid-September, asked students to weigh in on two questions: “What issues most concern you in the upcoming election?” and a natural follow-up, “What’s the most effective way to stimulate the American economy?” Blasts are short reading and writing assignments, using StudySync technology, that address timely, high-interest topics of cultural significance.
Some 625 students nationwide responded to the first question, generating 5,633 peer reviews – that is, student comments and feedback from within the VOTES Project/StudySync community. Nearly 42 percent of student respondents cited economic issues – unemployment, the national debt, etc. – as their top priority in the campaign, followed by social issues (gay marriage, abortion, etc.) at 23 percent, education issues (rising cost of college, teacher pay, etc.) at 18 percent, health issues (access to health care, alcohol/tobacco abuse) at about 10.5 percent and foreign policy issues (Afghanistan, nuclear proliferation)
The most popular peer review post came from this anonymous high school student: “I believe the most important issues to resolve are economic issues, especially the national debt.” Phillip, another high school student, offered this: “My issues are how little attention is paid to the youth of America. Just because we're not over the age of 18 doesn't mean we have no voice.” And this, from a middle schooler: “I really don't think they should cut Medicare plans because some families really do struggle and need that help.”
In the second Blast poll question -- perhaps mirroring the electorate at large -- students split on potential solutions to the nation’s economic ills. By a significant margin, students favor tax breaks to encourage job creation (37.4 percent), while identical shares of the VOTES Project population (25.4 percent) line up behind “developing more government-funded stimulus projects” and “reducing government regulations.”
Among the peer review posts, the most popular response came from an anonymous high school student: “I think allowing businesses more freedom would be the next best thing. The businesses are the backbone of the economy and can help fix it.” A Northfield Mount Hermon student offered this: “The economy should be stimulated from the bottom up by giving money to the people in demand of buying goods.” And a high school student in Biloxi, Miss.: “We should quit spending so much money on foreign investments and spend more money on trying to fix our problems at home.”
“As our first two VOTES Project Blast poll questions affirm, today’s secondary school students are thoroughly engaged in the big themes of Campaign 2012 – and that, by itself, ought to give all of us great cause for optimism about the nation’s future,” said Jim Shea, NMH history teacher and VOTES co-founder. “As telling as the raw numbers are, however, the peer review feedback is even more compelling – it shows a real understanding of the issues, not just basic awareness.”
“We teach that democracy is a process, a journey as much as a destination – and already, this year’s VOTES Project Blast polls are underscoring this basic truth,” said Robert Romano, founder and CEO, BookheadEd Learning. “The Blasts are also demonstrating how relevant and immediate education technology can be, fostering timely connections and facilitating conversations that matter.”
NMH created VOTES 1988 and has run the program for all six presidential elections since then. In 2008, 60,000 students from every state in the nation cast ballots of their own and sent them to Northfield Mount Hermon a week before Election Day. For the 2012 race, the polls will wrap up just prior to Election Day, when students will select one of the two candidates.
In addition to counting the popular vote, NMH's mock election simulates the Electoral College process. According to NMH, teen voters have correctly predicted the results of the national presidential election in every race since 1988, with the exception of the 2004 contest. Turnout in participating schools approaches 80 percent — twice the average turnout in national elections. The project teaches students about the democratic process, tests their political savvy, and reveals the age group's political leanings through an issues poll.
An innovative, web‐delivered academic tool, StudySync was created by leading national educators with the goal of inspiring higher levels of critical thinking and academic collaboration. Aligned to the Common Core State Standards, StudySync targets middle and high school students, enlisting broadcast-quality video, digital media, mobile platforms and social learning to advance students’ reading, writing and critical thinking abilities.
Flexible and easy‐to‐navigate, StudySync places control fully in the hands of the educator, enabling teachers to integrate the product into their current classroom curriculum any way they see fit. Teachers can, for example, customize the experience by using StudySync lessons in sequence as a complete unit or assigning individual components to supplement existing lesson plans; the teacher can track progress and make assessments at any time. StudySync is also intended to be used across disciplines – for language arts classrooms and for science, social studies, history and other subject areas as well.
About BookheadEd Learning, LLC
BookheadEd Learning connects high school and middle school students to the great ideas of mankind through technology, multimedia, and a rich library of classic and modern texts. StudySync, its award-winning flagship product, uses web-delivered educational tools – including broadcast-quality video, digital media, mobile platforms and social networking —to help teachers inspire higher levels of students’ reading, writing, critical thinking, academic discourse and peer-to-peer collaboration. StudySync is the recipient of two BESSIE Awards and the EDDIE Award from ComputED Gazette, “Trendsetter”
About Northfield Mount Hermon
Northfield Mount Hermon, NMH, is a co-educational independent boarding school for students in grades 9–12 and postgraduate. It is located on the banks of the Connecticut River in Massachusetts near Gill, Massachusetts. NMH was founded in 1879. The school provides, “Education of the head, the heart, and the hand.” Our mission is to engage the intellect, compassion, and talents of our students, empowering them to act with humanity and purpose. NMH is a member of the Eight Schools Association, which comprises Phillips Academy (known as Andover), Phillips Exeter Academy, Choate Rosemary Hall, Deerfield Academy, Hotchkiss School, Lawrenceville School, and St. Paul’s School.