This presidential election season motivated our current theme, “The Vote”, and, with it, our foray into the political process. As a school and a non-profit entity, our conundrum is how to talk about politics without “doing” politics, how to advertise theme-related political events without engaging in political campaigning, how to invite candidates without appearing to endorse them, and how to guide our students into debates of opinions while remaining respectful.
For example, we are bringing candidates of local elections into the classrooms, on the premise that it is more exciting for the students to meet people whose names they see all over town than to meet already elected officials they have not heard of. As much as possible, we try to bring all contestants of a given race. Last Thursday, the whole school welcomed Lisa Sprague, candidate for Leon County Sheriff. Her opponent, Sheriff Campbell, has been approached for a visit too, via e-mail, a visit to his campaign headquarters, a call to his secretary, and a follow-up email.
Leon County Commissioner Akinyemi visited the middle school on Monday (Oct. 1st) and his opponent, Mary Ann Lindley, on Tuesday (Oct. 2nd). Instead of campaigning, candidates are asked to talk about the electoral process, explain what their role is or will be, contrast different branches of local government, tell the students why they went into politics, etc… And unless both opponents come, we discourage candidates from distributing any campaign paraphernalia to avoid partisanship, which is why your children may have been disappointed not to get the cool stars Ms. Sprague had brought along.
Our goal is to maintain a nonpartisan approach while exposing our students to real politics. We strive to respect the wide diversity of opinions in our community, so please contact us if you are uncomfortable with the guidelines we have adopted. Do consider watching/listening to the presidential debate with your child(ren) on Wednesday, and do not forget to register to vote!
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