Student Well-Being

Indianapolis Teacher Puts Students to Work on His Bid To Become a State Lawmaker

By Natasha N. Smith — February 25, 2004 2 min read

Matthew W. Smith, a private school teacher in Indianapolis, is taking political science to a new level by putting his students to work on an actual campaign.

His students are improving their English skills by writing letters to lobbying groups. They’re incorporating math by monitoring and analyzing election polls. Studying up on the state’s environmental policy also has the teenagers broadening their science background.

What candidate has them doing all this work?

Mr. Smith. He is seeking the Republican nomination for the Indiana House of Representatives for the state’s District 97.

“They’re gaining the importance of political action, voting, and voter registration,” the teacher said of his students. “They’re learning it firsthand; therefore, it’s harder to forget.”

Running for political office is not his lifelong ambition, and he concedes that his only background in politics “is being licensed to teach government.”

But with that license, he is taking his class of 15 seniors at Scecina High School on a ride to get him elected—as his campaign staff.

Mr. Smith designed the curriculum for the political science class, which is being offered this year for the first time as an elective at the 354-student Roman Catholic school. As he drew up the course of study, Mr. Smith felt that the best way for his students to learn the subject was by doing just what political operatives do.

The school sent a letter to parents explaining the nature of the course, and making it clear that their children would be helping in a real political campaign.

‘A Living Textbook’

Since Feb. 3, when his class accompanied Mr. Smith to the Indiana Government Center and the City Council Building to file his candidacy paperwork, the class has been thoroughly engaged with the intricacies of running a campaign.

Two of the students have been assigned to share the task of campaign manager, while the rest of the students are working as “volunteers.”

The students have already masterminded a T-shirt design as well as the campaign slogan: “Leadership Today for a Brighter Tomorrow.”

Most of their days are spent researching political action committees and making contact with lobbying groups. If they are not doing that, they are observing advertising techniques for spots on the Internet, on radio and television, or in newspapers. The main focus currently is on a fund-raising dinner to help finance the campaign.

“This is a living textbook,” Mr. Smith said. “This is their work, their research, and I am their politician.”

Though the students are working on the campaign, Mr. Smith allays any fears that the students’ success in the class will be based on the outcome of the May primary. And, because the class is optional, no students are being forced to work on the campaign.

“Their grades aren’t dependent on whether I win the election or not. Their grades are based on journaling and quizzes,” Mr. Smith said. “Students know they can drop the class. None have dropped it, but a few more have signed up.”

Related Tags:

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Future of Work Webinar
Digital Literacy Strategies to Promote Equity
Our new world has only increased our students’ dependence on technology. This makes digital literacy no longer a “nice to have” but a “need to have.” How do we ensure that every student can navigate
Content provided by Learning.com
Mathematics Online Summit Teaching Math in a Pandemic
Attend this online summit to ask questions about how COVID-19 has affected achievement, instruction, assessment, and engagement in math.
School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Speech Therapists
Lancaster, PA, US
Lancaster Lebanon IU 13
Elementary Teacher
Madison, Wisconsin
One City Schools

Read Next

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Whitepaper
Building a Trauma-Informed Learning Environment
Download this white paper to learn how to recognize trauma and gain strategies for helping students cope and engage in learning.
Content provided by n2y
Student Well-Being Opinion How to Help Students Know When It’s Time to Quit—and When It’s Not
Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right. Here’s how to consider the decision to persist or stop.
3 min read
Images shows a stylized artistic landscape with soothing colors.
Getty
Student Well-Being Caring for Students in the Wake of a Traumatic News Event
How educators can help students unpack emotions in the wake of troubling news events in a way that clears space for learning.
5 min read
Trump supporters try to break through a police barrier on Jan. 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol.
Pro-Trump rioters try to break through a police barrier at the U.S. Capitol.
John Minchillo/AP
Student Well-Being Infographic Data Snapshot: What Teacher and Student Morale Looks Like Right Now
See how the pandemic is impacting the morale and motivation of teachers and students in this exclusive EdWeek Research Center survey.
EdWeek Research Center
1 min read
Mood Emojis shown in the form of a chart with data graphs ghosted behind them.
Gina Tomko/Education Week + Getty<br/>