Friday, January 18, 2008

South Carolina Primary Season

Chelsea to stump for Hillary on campus next week

As my previous post on Michelle Obama suggests, the state of South Carolina is crawling with presidential hopefuls in anticipation of tomorrow's Republican primary and, a week later, the Democratic contest. I have yet to see a credible argument for why the primaries are held on separate dates. Voters may cast ballots in one or the other but not both.

In an effort to plunge my English 112 composition class into the fray, I'm requiring my students to take the candidate quiz sponsored by Minnesota Public Radio, determining which candidate's views best match their own. (Of course, over half of the original candidates are no longer contenders.) Then, I ask students to select one issue mentioned in the quiz and write a position paper in which they explain and document two candidates' positions and then go on to clarify their own view, whether or not it matches that of either candidate.

So far, class discussion indicates that immigration is drawing the most interest (just as it is in among state legislators this term), with health care, education, and social security also attracting some students. Interestingly, only one or two plan to write on Iraq. This seems to reflect the waning of this as a campaign issue in recent weeks. The relative success of the "surge" has, at least for now, quieted critics of the war and taken suicide bombings out of the headlines.

I'm not requiring my students to divulge their presidential choices, but as we continue to talk about the issues in class, I imagine some of their loyalties will surface. Mainly, I just want to urge them to inform themselves, engage in dialogue, and vote in the primary races. Too few college students register and vote.

Rumor has it that Chelsea Clinton and America Ferrara will be on our campus Tuesday on behalf of Hillary.

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