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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Vote Rigging

  Voting is still open today for the Army of Ermas contest!  Check out my piece as entry # 8!  I'm assuming the winner will be determined based on, well, who had the most votes and that the election process is relatively manipulation-free.  Not so in the second grade.
  When I first started teaching, I chose a mascot for my class--the Gators.  It was alliterative (Garb's Gators), evocative of our location (South Louisiana) and held fantastic decorating potential (think faux alligator skin covering the classroom door).  After a few years, though, I decided to open up the process of choosing a class mascot for a vote.  Voting on a mascot in my classroom each year is a delicate balance between the following two considerations:
  • taking student input 
  • not ending up with a sucky mascot like Chipmunks
  Conducting a democratic, student-led selection of the class mascot requires careful guidance, as some of the initial suggestions might not be quite what you were envisioning.  For instance, Brian’s suggestion that we name ourselves the “Illegal Aliens.”  Not exactly what I had in mind for our new second grade persona.  If the decision were left up to the students, we would end up being called the Winged Immigrant Kittens, and really, we just can’t have that.
  I have found that following the vote-manipulation protocol outlined below ensures that we end up with the best mascot possible, given the constraint of having to include seven year-olds in the decision-making process.

First, acknowledge but ultimately ignore any undesirable suggestions.


Second, manipulate the first round votes until you have narrowed the field down to three acceptable possibilities for the final vote.


Third, suggest compromises if the final vote does not result in the ideal choice.

  "Compromising," for the purposes of elementary democracy, can mean either "combining part of each party's ideas" or it can mean, "teacher inserting an entirely new option when the existing ideas are terrible."  Usually, though, one of the children’s suggestions makes it through this rigorous vetting process without even having to resort to the insert-new-idea type of compromise.  
  Final choices for our class mascot have ranged from “Eagles” to “Snow Leopards” to “Tigers,” which later, during the compromise phase of the selection process became the “Hungry Tigers”, and ultimately the “Brave Hungry Tigers.”  This past year, the voting process was particularly precarious but we managed to avoid having to be called the Second Grade Chipmunks all year.  Phew!  Go Turtles.

  If democracy's not what you're going for (feigned though it may be), check out what happened when we kicked off our study of laws with a little dictatorship!

2 comments:

Sherri said...

Oh, I can just picture that whole process! So funny....can you imagine a small country run entirely by 2nd graders??!

Winged Immigrant Kittens cracked me up!

Oh, and I'm off to vote...loved the Erma post yesterday, but got distracted and didn't vote yet. Good luck!

Sarah Garb said...

Yeah--deciding anything by consensus is quite the feat! Second graders running a country would be SCARY!