Staff photo by Kimberly Shelton
KHS senior Taylor Jenkins registers to vote while Deputy Clerk Crystal Starling at the Circuit Clerk's Office stands by for questions.
“A vote is like a rifle, its usefulness depends upon the character or the user.” – Theodore Roosevelt
Educating the next generation of voters, one teacher is going above and beyond to inform her students.
“I was brainstorming at smith. restaurant during lunch with one of my co-workers (Vicki Jones) one day and we began discussing politics as well as back-to-school,” said Kossuth High School Instructor Dr. Sherlyn Haley. “It was like a light bulb went off in my head all of a sudden and I thought what better gift to give my students than to make them informed, responsible voters.”
Borrowing a quote from President Theodore Roosevelt for inspiration, the KHS senior English IV class each chose their favorite subject from a list of acceptable topics. The topics included, but were not limited to: platforms for both parties, truth in political advertising, voting trends, government entitlements, international relations, government spending and the national deficit.
“We established early on that there are interactive quizzes available online at websites like www.isidewith.com which allow users to pick and choose the issues that are important to them,” said Dr. Haley. “Following the completion of the quiz, participants are then aligned with a candidate who shares their values.”
Assigned on the first day of school (Aug. 4), research papers are due by the end of next Wednesday (Aug. 31).
In addition to finishing their papers, each student must give a presentation to the class using a PowerPoint, poster board or some other visual aid.
“My goal in all of this was to familiarize them with the issues and the candidates,” said Dr. Haley, who never dreamed her students would be so receptive. “They are having so much fun with it and have really embraced their projects. Many of them have discovered things to tell their parents that even they didn’t know.”
Choosing government spending and the national deficit as his project, KHS senior Taylor Jenkins of the third block class has now gained an appreciation for politics.
“I wasn’t really interested in it before this assignment, but have since changed my mind," said Jenkins. “My father is very political-minded so becoming a more informed citizen has really opened the doors for dialogue at home.”
Turning to usdebtclock.org, the 17-year-old Aggie was able to grasp the enormity of the country’s current financial situation.
“The website has this big clock that keeps up with everything from bank foreclosures and foreign income to GOP numbers and homelessness,” he said. “There are a lot of different numbers and variables and the figures roll over every second.”
The first big number visitors to the site will encounter is the national debt which is currently over $19 trillion.
“That number goes up by $1,000 every second and my predication is that by October it will increase to $2,000 every second,” said Jenkins. “I don’t want people to look at it and be scared, but it has definitely opened my eyes to the economic side of our country – not that we are failing, but that we are falling hard.”
“The majority of our spending is mainly on foreign goods,” he added. “That’s government spending, not the debt.”
Comparing and contrasting Clinton and Trump’s plans for government spending, Jenkins came to the following conclusions:
“Hilary Clinton is basically trying to pull a ‘Robin Hood’ by taxing the rich in favor of the poor,” he said. “Donald Trump on the other hand, wants to spread it out evenly and have nothing but middle and upper class. He plans to achieve the goal by bumping up everyone from the lower class.”
“If elected, he doesn’t want the salary that would normally be given to him as president or the pension that would follow his presidency, so we would already be saving a ton of money there,” he added. “I have conjured up a plan for decreasing the deficit that I hope whoever is elected will follow.”
Jenkins believes the best way for the deficit to be cut is to experiment with other countries such as Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and the African Congo.
“These countries have a lot of unusual products that we can make money off of,” he said. “We are now a global market and are always in need of allies so it just makes ‘cents’.”
Successfully capturing the attention of her students, Dr. Haley is thrilled by all they've discovered.
“To see how much they’ve grown as Americans and young adults is so encouraging,” she said. “I plan to do something like this again since it has been so successful. I could retire, but now I may not want to.”