I'm working on a research project with my literature classes and, because we're supposed to require a persuasive research paper this year, I assigned both classes to research the presidential candidates and write a persuasive paper trying to convince other people to vote their way. I have a tendency towards being a very idealistic person. I realize I often come across as bitter and pessimistic on this blog, and at times I am but a lot of that is just my shtick. I'm not sure it's possible to not be a little bitter and pessimistic if you're naturally idealistic, especially when you're faced on a regular basis with the fact that human beings are, in general, quite stupid and proud of it.
I came into this research project hoping that a few of the brighter students might actually come away with the facts, and, if they don't change their minds on which candidate they prefer, they at least come away with a better understanding and can explain why they support their candidate without resorting to that campaign's one liners or just a gut feeling of who they think is cooler.
And I'd like to clarify that previous statement by saying that I have no intention of trying to convert high schoolers into avid Obama supporters. That would be a fairly egregious abuse of my authority as a teacher. (What authority?) I would like to see the kids consider the issues more rationally and without the veil of crap that clouds the debate with a stinky mass of regurgitated "facts" from forwarded e-mails.
I've got a feeling I'm going to leave this project just as depressed as I have with every other research project. Most of the kids I've taught aren't just apathetic to what's going on in the world around them, but they're militantly apathetic. Some of them take offense to the idea that they should care more about what's going on in the world around them, and with my disposition the one or two of them every time more than makes up for the reward of the one or two who really get into the topic and do a great job with enthusiasm, especially since the vast majority just get it done for the grade and come away with no expanded understanding.
Of course I may end up surprised. There may be a couple of kids who go from completely oblivious to impressed with their new knowledge of our political system and that kid that always mutters and complains about having to care keeps his mouth shut to let me fool myself into thinking I made a difference.
I doubt it.