If the students in Rachael Pinsley’s class had their say, Hillary Clinton would be the 45th president.
The fifth graders at Glenwood Elementary School decided popular vote, rather than the Electoral College, should determine who occupies the White House.
The strength of their argument took second place in the fourth annual Lenfest Citizenship Challenge hosted by The Rendell Center for Civics and Civic Engagement.
“The American electoral process is a topic we teach every year and it’s especially interesting when it’s an election year,” said Pinsley during the February Rose Tree Media School Board meeting. “This was a way to talk about it without all the divisiveness that was out there.”
Housed at The Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, the Rendell Center offers opportunities for educators and students to develop knowledge, practices and dispositions of engaged citizenship. Teachers can access curriculum content and participate in professional development experiences, while all grade levels are offered events and space for dialogue.
The challenge, open to fourth and fifth graders in the five-county area, poses an issue each year relating to the principles and documents of government and rights and responsibilities of citizens. Classes were asked to complete an essay addressing, “Should the Constitution be amended to eliminate the Electoral College system for selecting the president and replace it with the national popular vote?”
After completing the necessary research and debating the merits, students concluded the system should be abolished. Their collaborative essay, one of 120 submitted, was selected among the 10 finalists and the class was invited to the National Constitutional Center to present its view and enjoy a tour and lunch.
Creating a four-minute “man on the street” news video, the students donned colonial garb to relate the history and initial reasoning for the Electoral College and current clothing to debate its relevance in the modern day. By comparing neighboring New Jersey (population nine million, 14 electoral votes) and Delaware (population four million, three electoral votes), they noted residents may chose not to cast a ballot if they feel it will not ultimately affect the outcome.
“The votes aren’t equal among the states,” said a student on the video. “When all the Electoral College votes go to one candidate, people feel like their votes don’t count and they decide not to vote.”
Each class presented its entry and answered questions posed by a four-person panel including former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and retired federal court Judge Marjorie Rendell. The class’ second-place finish was accompanied by a $500 check and civics library for the school.