Editorial: Suburban high school civics students get a valuable eyeful at Iowa caucuses

  • A group of civics students from Indian Prairie Unit District 204 grab a selfie with presidential candidate Andrew Yang Monday at the Iowa caucuses.

    A group of civics students from Indian Prairie Unit District 204 grab a selfie with presidential candidate Andrew Yang Monday at the Iowa caucuses. Courtesy of Chris Wolak

The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Posted2/7/2020 1:00 AM

There is nothing quite like seeing the sausage-making of an election up close to spark one's interest in politics. And, o better time and place to witness that than in Iowa during presidential primary season.

Four dozen high school students from Indian Prairie Unit District 204 high schools got a chance to see, at its best and its worst, the arcane goings-on in Iowa this week as candidates made their final pleas and voters persuaded, cajoled and, yes, bribed each other in order to win hearts and minds.


Ashi Gottumukkula, a senior at Metea Valley High School in Aurora, was one of the lucky students who made the trip. She likened the proceedings to something her classmates can relate to: "It reminded me of a high school campaign election where people just hand out food to try to get people to come to their side," she told our Marie Wilson in a story published Wednesday.

She watched young children try to lure voters with cookies.

Students also got to witness the strange ritual of musical chairs Iowans play to determine who comes out on top in these "gatherings of neighbors" at Iowa's 1,681 precincts.

"I could understand how the results could be delayed just with the amount of chaos the caucus actually is," Gottumukkula told Wilson.

Indeed, these high school students got the bonus of having seen the system absolutely fall apart and fail to produce a winner for days.

Iowans, by virtue of being first on the primary-season dance card, get tremendous attention, exposure to advertising and to the candidates themselves. But what's so charming about the Iowa caucuses is the institutionalized neighbor-to-neighbor discussion that goes on.

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It is pure grass-roots. What a great idea to introduce high school kids to the petri dish of politics.

This is the second time District 204 has sent students to the Iowa caucuses.

"It's a wonderful observational setting of seeing something that -- even four years ago, heck, as a longtime government teacher -- I had never seen anything like it," teacher Chris Wolak said. "The commitment of people who come to caucus, the horse-trading of if a candidate is going to be viable, will be maybe even more observational and exciting this time around with several candidates in the mix."

Tommy Treacy, a senior at Waubonsie Valley High School in Aurora, was struck by the passion of caucusgoers. It's not a quick in-and-out but a two-hour process.

"It was great to see that they were being politically engaged," Treacy said.

For us, it's great to see these suburban teens being politically engaged.

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