Tuesday, May 13, 2008

ESL Students and the Electoral College

This is an exciting time in American politics. I had never thought that there would be an opportunity in my lifetime for a woman or an African American to possibly be the president of the U.S.

For my ESL students who are visiting from other countries, they are having a great opportunity to experience this time in American history (although, I realize that this may be my ethnocentric outlook!).

These days I find myself not only being an ESL tutor, but also a "civics" teacher. And one of the most difficult things to explain is the Electoral College, delegates, and superdelegates, etc. I must admit that I've had to review some of what I learned years ago in high school (and I don't think we learned about superdelegates back then!), and I find that it's still very difficult for me to explain and for my advanced ESL students to understand.

Such is American politics.


1 comment:

Eric said...

You're doing exactly what we, like all Americans, should do as you review the election system. Do you know that the electoral college was originally intended, in part, to protect the "rights" of slave states? Well, it worked. Lincoln was only elected in a four way election. After the Civil War, and the 13th amendment abolishing slavery, the electoral college lead to the corrupt 1876 election in an openly stolen election. Skip forward to 2000 and Americans learn that the popular vote doesn't matter as Gore wins a half million more votes. Chads, selective counting, and a dubious Supreme Court put Bush into the White House.
Given Obama's exceptional popularity in urban America - and unpopularity in rural America, 2008 may easily see another split decision with Obama winning the popular vote and McCain cruising to victory in the electoral college.
Perhaps Democrats will find the outrage to challenge this undemocratic legacy of slavery if they lose a third contested, consecutive election!
One possible reform, which Maine and Nebraska already use, is to chose the electors by Congressional District instead of the current winner take all system. The big downside for both political parties? You would have to campaign in 435 Congressional districts instead of focusing on 10-15 swing states!
Imagine that!