While more than 73 million viewers watched the first presidential debate between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden on September 29, included in that number were CHS students watching as part of their Advanced Placement US Government and Politics class.
Taking a government class is part of the four-year history requirement for Coronado High School students. The AP Government class studies the institutions and concepts of the political system in the United States, which is especially relevant during an election year.
One week before the presidential debate, host Chris Wallace announced the six topics that would be part of the debate: the candidates’ political records, the Supreme Court, COVID-19, the economy, race and violence in our cities, and the integrity of the election.
For their class assignment, AP Government students chose five of the six debate topics for which to summarize the candidates’ answers. Students were also asked to present their views on how each candidate performed during the debate. Carly Thoms shared, “It was a pretty unique debate. As my parents and teachers stated, they had never seen anything like it before. I thought it was very disorganized and there was no real, productive political discussion that occurred.”
Social Studies teacher Mr. Silverman has students study the presidential debates during the primaries and general election as his students can see varying perspectives from the different candidates. He hopes students learn to identify key issues and form their own opinions of the candidates, as well as the influence of media coverage. Sadie Coburn said, “Through watching and analyzing this first debate, with more debates to follow, we get a deeper understanding of each of the candidates’ stances and proposed policies on varying issues. On top of that, we get to see what type of leader each candidate would make as we watch how they conduct themselves throughout this time.”
AP Government students are all high school seniors which means some of them are 18 and are eligible to vote in the upcoming election on November 3. According to Forbes Magazine, 63% of Americans who are within the 18-29 year old range said that they will “definitely vote” this year. Historically, young voters have been underrepresented in elections but this year may prove different. Quique Leon turned 18 in August and is excited to vote in his first election. “This was the first presidential debate where I sat down and watched knowing I would have a voice in this next election. I had my opinions on who I liked and disliked beforehand, but it still surprised me how the two men running for the position that represents the face of our nation could not keep a civil conversation with any benefit to the people.”
Additional presidential debates are scheduled for October 15 and October 22, but President Trump’s recent COVID-19 diagnosis may impact them. Either way, Mr. Silverman has a plan to make sure his students will continue to learn as he has assigned his students to watch the vice presidential debate this week between Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris on October 7.