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Editorial

Politics extend beyond classroom

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October 16, 2008

With Election Day quickly approaching it is important for students to not only vote, but to understand the candidates they are voting for.

An informed vote has been increasingly difficult as political ads become more slanderous and pundits on both sides use whatever fallacies they have at their disposal to slant their opponents in negative views while making their own candidate appear as a figure of fair and balanced politics.

On the local level, River Falls has the problem of being in the Minneapolis media market and hears little of Wisconsin political candidates in the media. As a result, voters have to try even harder to become informed and understand the issues underlying the election.

Classroom discussions on the candidates are encouraged, but it can go awry when biased teachers interject their political opinions into the debate. When professors outwardly comment on why their candidate is superior then the other it can cause students to be uncomfortable and unwilling to participate in discussions. The students who do participate usually agree with the professor to get the “right answer” response and further impede true discussion.

Professors should remain unbiased and let the classroom discussion uncover the pros and cons of each candidate so students can make judgments of their own, unimpeded by the authority figure in the room.

Play devils advocate and draw out the arguments on both sides. Getting the views of both candidates is important for an informed voter. The classroom can be a good place to hear the angles, but it has to be in an unbiased, non-threatening atmosphere. Professors should encourage debate, not hinder it.

Sites like votesmart.org can be excellent resources for voters seeking to learn more about the candidates. Votesmart contains information on local candidates as well as national candidates; all that is needed is your zip code. Another Web site, factcheck.org, finds the truth behind the claims in the political ads.

Do not just vote blindly along party lines just to participate. Discuss the candidates, research the issues, find out who the candidates are and what the stand for and inform your vote so when you cast your ballet Nov. 4 it truly counts.