Government classes during presidential election years

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Photo: Hailey Rowe

Scott Byers' AP Government 5th period class watches the news.

Every four years, politicians think it’s the most wonderful time of the year in November. This year, with the election candidate choices, some people wanted the election to be over.

The election affected the way government teachers run their classes as well. In Scott Byers’ AP government class, they got a first-hand experience on how the election affected the class setup. “I’ve conducted things in the same fashion that I would if this were a non-election year-trying to facilitate discussion and trying to give students the opportunity to express their point of view,” Byer said. With all of the events that were constantly talked about in the news, he did have a mindful approach that he teaches sophomores in high school but they would still talk about the issues in class.

In past years, Byer has never remembered a more intense election in his lifetime. “In the year 2000, I was a junior in high school and I remember when Al Gore won the popular vote but lost the election,” Byer said.

With the strong difference of views between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, students had more polarizing opinions about the candidates views. Byer still needed to control the direction of the discussion. He wants students to feel that Fairmont is a safe place, their opinions are valued and respected and that students can share their opinions as long as the opinions are tied to facts. They can not just make something up.

For the most part, some classes have more debates than others. He has one class where there are stronger opinions generating more debates. If his class was in a non-election year, there is still the primary sources. Byer feels that being able to teach government over an election is awesome because the class can talk about elections and campaigns as they are happening. Students may even go home and discuss it with their families. 

People were initially having a tough time grasping around the fact that the results did not reflect what the media was expecting to happen. “This is democracy, this is democracy in action. We had an election and what’s amazing is the polls in the media were projecting something different than what occurred on election night, but ultimately, Trump is our president-elect, people have spoken. He won a majority of electoral votes,” Byer said.

Even with the election over, Byer thinks that it was exciting, unpredictable, and enlightening.“In general, regarding the result, what’s so cool about democracy is it’s about the people and that the American Voters have the opportunity to participate in the election, and through their vote, have a voice, and that’s pretty cool,” Byer said.