Thursday, November 17, 2016

Mock Election Edition by Matthew Moulden

Thank you to Matthew Moulden for taking a risk and submitting this. Remember, this blog lives only because of the community supporting it and believing that sharing our struggles with clarity can be as valuable as sharing our successes. To share, email or share a Doc with

I teach AP US Government, a senior level course, in a rural suburban community in Texas. And every year I have run a mock election project for the class. Each year is a different theme - Star Wars, Superheroes, Villians, etc. I do this to avoid partisan politics and conflicts interfering in what is suppose to be a fun and educational project. 
This is a massive undertaking on the kids - it's a PBL thing. The kids must nominate a candidate (while figuring out how that process works), run a campaign for their chosen candidate (commercials, signs, polling, seeking donors, fundraising), and then run the actual vote (determining voting rights, election rules, exit polling). There is a lot to this - it usually becomes a school wide event.

This year - 2016, being an election year, I wanted to go BIG. I wanted it to do more than in a normal year, but 2016 was no normal election. I wanted to show the importance of the President and stress the role of the President in the election as well. So this year I chose the theme of Greatest President of All-Time. Thinking with the Hamilton play that my kids are obsessed with, the historical memes, and just pop culture, this would be a sure way to get people excited. 
It started that way - my kids really got into it at first. Nominations were a dog fight over past presidents, early fundraising was a hit, the first wave of campaign ads were well done. But then things went south quickly. 

2016 was 2016. The election was too much. The kids were tired of taking politics and answering political questions from donors and potential voters, especially tied to the real election (something I did not anticipate at all). 
My master plan of using this fun project to show the importance of the real election even more than it was designed to was too ambitious and my kids ended up just burned out, as did I. 
My plan of using past presidents to show the importance of the role of the President back fired, the kids and school used 2016 politics on historical characters and it didn't end well.
And in the end - the whole project fell flat. 
Kids are usually excited on election day, anxious to make sure their supporters vote, to know the results, to brag on social media that they won.
Not this year. Only a few kids were concerned if they won, must were just glad the whole thing was over and we could move on.

My take away - keep things within their scope. Don't try to over-stuff something (unless it's a burrito then go for it). A project that was hugely successful in the past was ruined by a over zealous teacher and his wanting to make a grand gesture of a process that kids already got from keeping things light and fun. I learned to let my kids be kids and they'll dig and they'll learn.

So while that didn't work in ways I hoped it would, I did learn from my kids and will be better for it. 


  1. or "A project that was hugely successful in the past was ruined by..." 2016

  2. Great story. It resonates and is so full of learning experience that one cannot help but take away something hopeful and insightful about the future. Doing it wrong is the single-most sure-fire way to learn if you goal is doing it right. Keep up the good work!