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As Kids Go, So Goes the Nation

Glasgow Middle School students Nadia Rentia, right, and Fabiana Arrazola, both 13, participate in a presidential debate during their eighth-grade civics class. Nadia made a statement for Obama
Glasgow Middle School students Nadia Rentia, right, and Fabiana Arrazola, both 13, participate in a presidential debate during their eighth-grade civics class. Nadia made a statement for Obama (Dayna Smith - For The Washington Post)
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By Maria Glod
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 3, 2008

Kids don't have a vote, but they do have opinions on who should be America's next president.

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In classrooms locally and nationwide, students have been staging debates and casting ballots in mock elections. Here are a few of the ways students have learned about democracy and about Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.):

Fifty-two years ago, students who participated in the Weekly Reader presidential election poll picked Dwight D. Eisenhower over Adlai Stevenson. Since then, the kids' choice has mirrored the country's in all but one election.

In 1992, students chose President George H.W. Bush over the man who succeeded him in the White House, Bill Clinton. "When Bush senior heard the results, he said he was really excited and was going to send [former U.S. senator] Bob Dole up to the Hill to pass the 28th Amendment to lower the voting age to 5," said Clara Colbert, Weekly Reader's senior managing editor.

This fall, more than 125,000 Weekly Reader fans across the country, from kindergartners to high-schoolers, cast ballots. Obama captured 54.7 percent of the votes compared with McCain's 42.9 percent. Obama was the choice of students in the District, Maryland and Virginia.

In Rachel Amrhein's fifth-grade class at Ashland Elementary School in Prince William County, Obama edged out McCain 15 to 12.

Taylor Irwin, 10, is an Obama supporter who has been following the candidate's education plan.

"He said that he would increase the number of children that are eligible for early education," Taylor said. "I think it's important for children to get exposed to learning at an early age."

Veronica Anderson, 10, backs McCain. But she really likes Republican vice presidential hopeful Sarah Palin. "I like that she's a girl so that there's change," Veronica said. "I think she's good when she talks."

Classmate Caitlin Bowen, 10, a Weekly Reader student reporter who is helping with the magazine's election coverage, is planning to go to the polls tomorrow to interview voters. "I'm going to ask who they voted for, why they voted for them and their main concern," she said.

Caitlin, who has interviewed first lady Laura Bush, said she's thinking about a career in journalism.

"I'm kind of deciding between a reporter and equine veterinarian," she said.


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