Teaching Government During an Election
Academics, Features

Teaching Government During an Election

By Sabrina McElyea

Try to put yourself in the shoes of a U.S. Government teacher for a moment. Imagine watching the electoral vote count rise as state after state slowly declares its winner. 

The amount of anxiety in the room could be sensed by everyone. 

Imagine teaching high school seniors how to vote and how the government works during one of the most historic elections in the nation’s history..

Mr. Ethan Crenshaw is the U.S. Government teacher here at Delta High School. He had the pleasure of teaching government during the 2020 Presidential election.

“I always enjoy teaching, but it’s far more fun during an election,” he said.

Mr. Crenshaw said he decided to become a government teacher because of an excellent government teacher he had in high school.

 “I have always been interested in the dynamics of power, who makes critical decisions, and why they make the decisions they make,” he said.

There were some challenges Mr. Crenshaw faced when teaching during the election.

“Being prepared for any and all possible questions related to current events has been challenging,” he said.

He often has had to research a topic to make sure he is giving accurate information. He said he understands that it can be difficult to comprehend just how elections work.

“Being able to discuss each step as the process plays out is a lot of fun,” he said. “Students often have a lot of questions about the political process, and you never really know what questions to expect – so the variety is exciting!” 

Mr. Crenshaw said he has had difficulty pointing out when things are unprecedented without sounding like he approves or disapproves. President Trump, who is not a career politician. has often been unconventional during his term. His style has included his use of Twitter, his frequent rallies, and his deviation from traditions.

 “I try to point out the way things are typically done, how things are currently being done, and how some might see that decision as good and others may see it as bad,” Crenshaw said.

Surprisingly, remaining unbiased during class discussions was not a challenge for him. 

“I definitely choose my words carefully. I typically won’t endorse or reject ideas, but will often play devil’s advocate in an attempt to get students to consider multiple perspectives.” 

He explained that his job is to “explain how the government functions, not who to support.” 

Mr. Crenshaw said he enjoyed teaching during the first semester. 

At the beginning of the period every day, class began with a discussion of current events. “One of the things I have enjoyed about this semester is the volume of current events…. There is so much happening in our country that it has been really easy for students to find interesting and relatable current events.” 

Map estimate
Mr. Crenshaw’s map shows his estimates of who would win each state. In the final analysis, he missed only two states: Florida, which went red for Trump, and Arizona, which went blue for Biden.

The most memorable moment from this semester was the five days between election day and the final projection of the winner.

“There was so much collective anxiety on both sides as to when the winner would be called and who the winner would be, and I really enjoyed mapping out the potential paths to victory for each candidate and doing the electoral math as a class.”

That time period stood out to him because we typically have a projected winner on the night of the election or the next day.

Mr. Crenshaw’s goal is that by the end of his class “students know enough about government and politics to arrive at their own decision.” 

He creates a safe and welcoming environment by emphasizing that we can disagree without being disagreeable.

“Students’ political views are formed by their life experiences, and we all have different experiences. Our job is not to judge someone else’s political views but instead try to understand why they believe what they do.”

December 14, 2020

About Author

Sabrina McElyea Sabrina McElyea is a senior at Delta and this is her first year taking newspaper. She has never taken a class like this before so she thinks it should be interesting. She is hoping to write stories on topics that are often overlooked. She wants to bring light to things and people that deserve it. She is the type of person that keeps to herself and isn’t exactly comfortable with her work being public, so this is out of her comfort zone. Outside of school, she enjoys watching Netflix and spending time with friends and family. Her favorite shows are Friends and The Walking Dead. Her favorite type of food is Mexican. She has a dog named Dorothy, a cat named Luna, and a fish named Dexter.


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