Tired of looking out on a sea of bored faces in his civics class, Wayne Kolb decided to make the political process come alive for his students. He announced his candidacy for president of the United States.
“This is something I’ve thought about for several years, and finally this year I decided it was time,’' says Kolb, a 48-year-old teacher at Doss High School in Louisville, Ky. He originally thought of running for local office but scaled up his plans after concluding that a local race would not have as much educational impact.
His students greeted his decision with skepticism and, perhaps, some mild enthusiasm. But when he called a press conference to officially announce his candidacy, the youngsters, who are mostly 11th graders, knew he was serious. The students now work as advisers to his independent campaign. “They look forward to coming to class and are really into the campaign,’' Kolb says.
The teacher has drawn praise, but also plenty of kidding, from his colleagues at school. He acknowledges that his wife was apprehensive at first. “I told her, ‘It will never leave the classroom,’ '' he says. “I really didn’t think it would get much publicity.’'
He was wrong. The story has appeared in newspapers and on radio stations around the country. All the attention has helped him raise money for campaign expenses, such as the $1,000 in filing fees to officially enter the race. A radio station in San Francisco picked up the story and raised some $300.
Kolb and his students have selected issues that his campaign will look at in depth, including balancing the federal budget, crime, and teen pregnancy. “Right now we are in the process of developing a platform on each of these issues,’' the candidate says. “The idea is for the students to critically examine each of them.’'
Kolb realizes that his campaign won’t keep President Clinton awake at night. But as long as his students are making progress and learning, he plans to see it through. “The students,’' he says, “seem very proud and glad that they are part of the whole scene.’'
A version of this article appeared in the November 01, 1995 edition of Teacher as Hat In The Ring