Gap in student’s learning of American politics

The lack of knowledge regarding third party politics revealed itself during this year’s election. With the media storm that surrounding Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton this year, the major third party candidates got close to no media coverage. But the problem isn’t just with the media, it goes back to how students, future voters, are taught about American politics.


Goodrich High School located in Goodrich, MI Photo taken 12/3/16 by Sandra Harris

A throw-away vote , a protest vote, a vote for the opponent. These are all things people claim a vote for a third party candidate is . This year’s election in particular caused quite a bit of debate among Americans as to the point of a third party vote.

Contrary to what some people might think, the problem goes much deeper than protest votes or throw-away votes. The issue goes back to the way politics is being taught in our schools and the way it is talked about between teachers and students.

This year, Goodrich Middle School held a mock election. The school spent some time discussing the different candidates and political parties with the students. The catch, the only two candidates on the mock ballot were Trump and Clinton.


AP U.S. History book used by students at Goodrich High School. Photo by Sandra Harris

According to an AP United States History student at Goodrich High School, Ellen Chernowsky, third party candidates are hardly ever discussed. “We talked a lot about the election this year, but everything was about Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.”

Even in the history books used, nothing is mentioned regarding third party candidates. Nothing is mentioned in the AP U.S. History course overview regarding third party candidates.

Although there may not be a huge history of third party candidates winning elections, they have played a vital role in many elections. A role that has affected the outcome of some presidential elections. This timeline lays out a short history of third party candidates in the United States.

This ideology sticks as these students go off to college. Brittany Gardner, a former student from Goodrich High School, now a students at Northwood University, holds the view that third party votes are a waste in today’s political atmosphere.

While some people may argue that third parties should be included in a student’s education. Some teacher’s focus is on teaching to the curriculum. Teri Jenson, a former U.S. history teacher, believes that third parties are left out of history classes because there is already so much to cover in our country’s history and third parties play such as small role.

“We teach to prepare kids for the near future, for tests,” says Jenson. “We don’t teach about third parties in depth because they don’t play as large of a role as the Democratic and Republican parties.”

Teachers like Jenson hope that by the time their students are old enough to vote, they will take the initiative to learn as much as they can about all the candidates.

For now, third party candidates take their small victories in stride. In this year’s congressional election, Libertarian Candidate Lisa Lane Gioia, was happy to walk away with just over 10,000 votes.

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“If anything we let people know that options do exist,” says Gioia. “We don’t have to have a two party system, we brought that upon ourselves. The more people know about their options the bigger chance we have in the future of making an impact.”

To learn more about what children are learning, contact one of Michigan’s Education Associations. We can’t blame young people for being uninformed, if schools aren’t taking the time to inform them.

If you would like to learn a little about your third party options, check out this quick Twine game.


Going Viral: podcast discussion


In this podcast, Steven Koss and I, Sandra Harris, discuss the book Going Viral by Karine Nahon and Jeff Hemsley. Listen as we briefly explain Nahon and Hemsley’s definition of virality and the way the book explains how a piece of information goes viral and the reasons a piece of information goes viral. We quickly touch on top-down virality versus bottom-up virality, both of which can lead to information becoming viral and reaching the masses.

The book touches on viral events such as Susan Boyle, Kony and Alexandra Wallace. In our discussion, we take a look at how the social media events following Osama Bin Laden’s death played out on Twitter and eventually on the news. These are the specific Tweets mentioned in the podcast by Keith Urbahn and Brian Stelter.


Screen shot of tweets from (Sandra Harris)

Listen as we discuss how examples in the book successfully frame the idea of virality in events that the reader most likely experienced as it happened. We also take the time to examine the downside of using such timely examples in order to simplify a complex topic.

This article quoted toward the end of our podcast includes an interview with Nahon that gives a little more background on the idea of virality and reveals some unintended consequences of virality.

In this video, Researcher and Author Jeff Hemsley sheds a little more light on why he has chosen to focus on virality as a vital topic. This video summarizes his research well.

In this video, Researcher and Author Karine Nahon answers questions on the impact virality has, and could potentially have, on our society.

For more information and reviews of Going Viral you can checkout this article by Nikki Soo, PhD candidate at the University of London, Book Review: Going Viral by Karine and Jeff Hemsley. For a more comparative look at the book and the idea of virality, take a look at this article titled Plague of Viral Memes by Scott McLemee, the intellectual affairs columnist at Inside Higher Ed.


What is too Much? My Twine adventure

Our Twine game is about a college student’s struggle with depression and anxiety. We hope that this game ensures people that depression is a serious issue that college students face every day. This game not only tells the story of our fictional character, Jordan, as he struggles through the school year, but also provides some information and resources for people who relate to Jordan’s journey.

Overall, I think we succeeded in showing the struggles a college student can go through. We could have done more throughout to be more informative and interactive. The beginning of our game tells Jordan’s story, the ending gives the user more information and resources.

Twine as a creative tool allows us to tell a story in a way that gets the user involved. Often times, when reading about mental illness or news reports, people get bored and start skimming. By having people press each link, they are physically moving the story forward. And therefore, staying involved in the information.

The most frustrating thing about Twine is how much time, effort and planning it takes to make a nonlinear game. With that said, once you figure Twine out in general it becomes pretty simple and pretty quick to use. It’s exciting to figure out new things to add or different ways to like pages.

Personally, I made the final six slides, which included the resources and ending of Jordan’s journey. I enjoyed finding the different resources and videos to link to and add to the game. I got excited when I figured out you could link back to a page instead of making the user press the back button.

As stated before, our game focused on a college students struggle with depression and anxiety. This article from TIME talks a little bit about the increasing rate of mental illness in college students and tells a little bit about some students’ journeys. Articles such as this were looked at in order to figure out a realistic journey for our main character, Jordan, to go through.

For people struggling with depression or anxiety, we hope this game shows that they’re not alone. Thousands of college students go through the same struggles everyday. We also hope that the resources listed for Jordan are places people can actually look to for help. For people who think someone they love may be facing depression or anxiety, we hope this game provides information regarding symptoms and places they can seek support for their loved one.

Another important source for information on mental illness is the National Alliance on Mental Illness. This site talks a little bit about what depression is, symptoms, treatments and different places to get support.

As a whole, we wanted to show that depression and anxiety happen, and that there are resources out there to help. By putting it in the context of our fiction character, Jordan, we hope to present the topic in a way that doesn’t offend anyone going through depression or anxiety, but also doesn’t sugar coat topic.

So without further ado, here is our Twine game: What is too Much? Created by Becca Hanna, Chester Flemming, Steven Koss, Timythi Hester and Me, Sandra Harris.

What is too Much?