As a student in education at Lueneburg University, I completed a teaching practicum at the Berufsbildungszentrum Schleswig, a vocational school, in the northern German town of Schleswig this month. During this practicum, I personally got the chance to teach a class of 12th graders in English over the last couple of weeks. As I realized that part of this course's curriculum was supposed to cover the United States' political system, I was excited to connect this to my work here at Teach About US – I decided to expand the topic of my teaching unit to give my students the opportunity to discuss the 2016 election campaign in more detail in class.
Let's face it: One question that fascinates people during every general election is the role of the swing states, and my students weren't an exception here. My students were especially intriguied by the importance of archetypal swing states for this year’s election and what campaign issues could possibly influence people’s voting behavior in these states.
One group in my class researched the state of Pennsylvania and stumbled upon some tricky questions. What a great occasion to interview our distinguished U.S. student expert, Amanda Thoet, I thought. Amanda is a Pennsylvanian native and graduated from the Pennsylvania State University in May 2015, where she studied English, German and Communication Arts and Sciences. This is what my students were interested in:
Pennsylvania and the partisan divide
The first question focuses on the partisan divide in the state of Pennsylvania. The students wanted to know:
“Dear Amanda, Pennsylvania is an important swing sate in 2016 and both Trump and Clinton will need its electoral votes for the Presidency. The partisan divide seems to be running right through your state – industrial centers in the east and west lean Democratic while many Republican voters can be found in the rural heartland of your state. Is this also how you perceive the campaign in your home state?”
Here is Amanda’s take on this:
“Dear 12th graders in Schleswig, Pennsylvania is indeed an important swing state in the 2016 Presidential Election, especially as we near voting day on November 8th. As someone who grew up in eastern Pennsylvania and attended University in central Pennsylvania, I saw first-hand the exact differences you are talking about. For example, this past weekend I was driving to State College, Pennsylvania, which is located in the heartland of the state. As I was driving, I saw a lot of ‘Vote for Trump’ signs on lawns and bumper stickers on backs of cars. Central Pennsylvania is populated largely by people who support the National Rifle Association (the NRA) and participate in hunting as a recreational sport. The NRA is more aligned with the more conservative Republicans. Even though my family and friends are from Pennsylvania, we do not carry guns and are not involved in the NRA. In east and west Pennsylvania, there are two major cities, Philadelphia in the east and Pittsburgh in the west. These urban centers are home to younger people such as University students and working professionals and therefore they lean more Democratic.”
What’s the role of the economy in the campaign in Pennsylvania?
Another question the same students were wondering about:
“Also, what’s the role of the economy in the campaign in Pennsylvania? That is, what are some economy-related issues in your state and what arguments do both sides offer?”
“In terms of the economy in Pennsylvania, it has a large role in who Pennsylvanians vote for. Since Pennsylvania has a large number of blue-collar workers in the heartland (working in manufacturing) and because the economy is perceived to not be doing so well, these Pennsylvania citizens are dissatisfied with the current leadership in the White House and they want a change. On the other hand, the cities are prospering where white-collar workers are predominant, and the majority of people are content with the current leadership of our nation. Therefore as you already know, Pennsylvania is going to be a state to watch as the big day approaches”.
Thank you, Amanda, for taking the time to address my students' questions on the election in Pennsylvania, and let me also thank my 12th-grade English students in Schleswig for contributing these questions.
Do you also have question on the 2016 election? Grasp at the unique chance of getting your questions answered by U.S. election experts. Don’t hesitate to address any of the U.S. election experts and post your questions directly in the expert database.
Janina Schmidt obtained her B.A. in teaching Economics and English as a Second Language (ESL) at Leuphana University Lüneburg in 2014. After earning her Master's degree (expected 09/2017), Janina intends to teach ESL as well as English for Specific Purposes with an economic focus at vocational schools. As a student assistant she currently supports the development of the U.S. Embassy School Election Project 2016.