CUMMING -- One Forsyth Central High School class took the election season into their own hands, turning their classroom into the nation of “Dugtopia” and electing their own presidents.
Michele Dugan’s AP English Language class worked since early October to understand the nation’s election process and strengthen their written and oral argument skills.
In an ongoing simulation, Dugan’s students nominated “candidates,” created campaign parties and designed campaign plans for their candidates, who were elected Monday.
They took on roles such as campaign manager, social media coordinator, public relations and marketing manager, speech writer and more.
Students also created their own campaign platforms and argued in debates, including a town hall in Central’s performing arts center.
“The mock election helped me understand more about the election process and politics as a whole, and it was also a great interactive lesson for problem-solving, argument, communication and rhetorical strategies,” said Emily Corwin, a junior at Central.
Dugan said that was what she was hoped to teach her students.
The class elected three “presidents,” each of whom represents a precinct.
All presidents are juniors at Central.
Austin McTier was elected president for Precinct 1, Jared Santiago for Precinct 2 and Emily Krulac for Precinct 3.
Dugan said she first experimented with the simulation last election cycle.
“Four years ago was the first time I tried it with high schoolers in the classroom,” she said. “My class focuses on rhetoric and writing and I thought this would be applicable in their lives, as Central’s [focus] is on being productive American citizens who serve.”
Part of being a productive citizen, Dugan said, is being able to articulate arguments in a way that is meaningful and colorful, and she found the students, too, wanted to be better writers and speakers.
“It’s so transferable to other classes and other areas of their lives,” Dugan said. “What was really powerful was that the kids are now able to step outside of their own opinions and apply the skills of rhetoric to avoid logical fallacies, which they can later take with them to argue for a raise at a job.”
Dugan said the presidential candidates were nominated based on impromptu speeches they gave one day in class.
“It was a [lesson] in extemporaneous speech,” she said. “From those speeches, the [class] chose candidates.”
Dugan said the simulation was also to help students get to know one another better.
“I like to play on students’ strengths and weaknesses, and they got to know each other’s [in order] to assign positions,” she said. “They really got to know each other, looked at each other’s strengths and said, ‘I know you’re really good at design, can you make this poster pop?’
“I always ask for feedback midway through and overwhelming, students reported this was the most engaged they’d been in a learning skills class.”
In part, the simulation also helped Dugan’s students understand what it means to be an American citizen and the privilege they have to be able to participate in the nation’s democracy.
“This election gave me the valuable skill of setting my passions aside and viewing ideas from a neutral, analytic standpoint,” said Haley Johnson. “I felt like I could solve problems throughout the process and make the best choices with and for my candidate.”
Carter Hehir, also a student, echoed Johnson.
“Not only did this process help me understand the views of my classmates, but I learned a lot about where I stand and what I am going to do when it is my turn to vote,” he said.
Dugan said this is exactly the feedback she hoped to get.
“These kids will be voting in a few years and they made their own party values,” Dugan said. “They didn’t argue Democrat or Republican; I think they finally feel like they can contribute to the [democratic] system.”