Lessons from the Election

Laura and students with posters

Despite a history of contentious presidential elections (e.g., elections of: 1800—Adams v. Jefferson; 1828—Jackson v. Adams; 1964—Johnson v. Goldwater), the current election season has set new standards for mudslinging, personal attacks, and character assaults. While our first instinct may be to protect our children from behavior we don’t condone by turning off the TV and postponing the conversation, we cannot, and should not, shield them from history.

As Turning Point educators, we have experienced many opportunities for “teachable moments”—both in and out of the classroom—to help students process what they are hearing from the media, parents, and friends during this election season. We want students to communicate their ideas precisely, thoughtfully, and civilly. The current polarization of our country suggests that these elements of communication might improve our ability to work together in the best interests of all, so we model this behavior for our students.

While sometimes it may feel easier to pretend the election is not happening, at Turning Point we appreciate that there is much to be learned from this quadrennial event. Our Kindergarten students will be in fourth grade the next presidential election, so what they learn now will provide a foundation for future engagement and excitement. In addition, of course there are other federal, state, and local representatives to elect and propositions that deserve our thoughtful consideration. Regardless of our personal feelings and inclinations, we want our students to understand what it means to vote for a new president, how our electoral system works, how to campaign effectively, how to navigate the ads and other media meant to sway voters in one direction or another.

Examples of election-oriented curricula in which our students have engaged include:

  • Ms. Britton reading Duck for President! Duck, who has become frustrated with Farmer Brown’s leadership of the farm, holds an election to take over its management. Of course, as with any good preschool storybook (or presidential election), hijinks ensue.
  • Level 5 held “Monster Elections,” in which the entire school helped to elect the Monster President of Halloween. Students worked in groups to develop a platform, slogan, name, and qualifications for their monsters, and then created campaign posters, flyers, and a video that featured campaign speeches.
  • Level 1 discussed how they should not judge a candidate by how they look, or what their campaign posters look like, but instead on what they stand for and believe in. Students discussed making decisions independent of classmates, and how every person’s vote counts.
  • In an article they read about past election slogans and platforms, Level 4 explored images of slogan buttons, such as “I Like Ike.” Students then imagined what their platforms would be if they were running for president, discussing their ideas with classmates and creating their own catchy slogans on paper buttons.
  • In Middle School, Level 8 students studied California proposed propositions and created limericks to describe them.

Proposition 58 (designed by legislators to lift the bilingual education ban)

English is a hard language to learn,
It takes time to master and discern,
Teachers will be able to share
Information with pairs
In languages already learned

Proposition 62 (ballot initiative to repeal the death penalty as an initiated state statute)

Proposition 62,
Says killing murderers is taboo,
Just ‘cause someone does bad,
Doesn’t mean we should go mad,
Life in prison is what it will do

Level 8 students will also be creating campaign materials, canvassing their classmates, and voting on ideas for their capstone projects.

If you want to explore some websites that focus on the constitution, elections, and democracy, please take a look at some resources that Mr. Segar has shared with the Elementary faculty:

Of course, no matter how the presidential election is decided, the current difficult political atmosphere will not be easily resolved. Let’s come together as a community to continue insisting on civil discourse, mutual respect, and integrity, so that our children see that we can have high standards for the way we treat others.

Laura signature
Dr. Laura Konigsberg
Head of School

Photo (Top): Dr. Konigsberg with Level 5 students Noah D. and Katelyn S., and the Level 5 Monster Election winner, Slimezilla.
Photo (Bottom): The Level 5 campaign team behind Monster Election candidate, Trillary.


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