SONOMA, Calif., October 10, 2012 -- It's the economy, students. That's the clear take-away from the first Blast polls in this year's national VOTES Project (Voting Opportunities for Teenagers in Every State), an initiative spearheaded by Northfield Mount Hermon (NMH), a prestigious private school in Massachusetts, and StudySync (www.studysync.com), the web-based Common Core curriculum from BookheadEd Learning, LLC.
The only program of its kind in the country, the VOTES Project brings together more than 100 public and private schools nationwide, as well as schools internationally, to give students a voice in the 2012 election.
The initial VOTES Project Blast polls, fielded in mid-September, asked students to weigh in on two questions: "What issues most concern you in the upcoming election?" and a natural follow-up, "What's the most effective way to stimulate the American economy?" Blasts are short reading and writing assignments,using StudySync technology, that address timely, high-interest topics of cultural significance.
Some 625 students nationwide responded to the first question, generating 5,633 peer reviews -- that is, student comments and feedback from within the VOTES Project/StudySync community. Nearly 42 percent of student respondents cited economic issues - unemployment, the national debt, etc. -- as their top priority in the campaign, followed by social issues (gay marriage, abortion, etc.) at 23 percent, education issues (rising cost of college, teacher pay, etc.) at 18 percent, health issues (access to health care, alcohol/tobacco abuse) at about 10.5 percent and foreign policy issues (Afghanistan, nuclear proliferation) at almost 7 percent.
The most popular peer review post came from this anonymous high school student: "I believe the most important issues to resolve are economic issues, especially the national debt." Phillip, another high school student, offered this: "My issues are how little attention is paid to the youth of America. Just because we're not over the age of 18 doesn't mean we have no voice." And this, from a middle schooler: "I really don't think they should cut Medicare plans because some families really do struggle and need that help."
In the second Blast poll question -- perhaps mirroring the electorate at large -- students split on potential solutions to the nation's economic ills. By a significant margin, students favor tax breaks to encourage job creation (37.4 percent), while identical shares of the VOTES Project population (25.4 percent) line up behind "developing more government-funded stimulus projects" and "reducing government regulations." Another 12 percent endorse government grants to spur development. For the second question, 417 students responded, generating 3,859 peer review comments. (continued...)