Liane Davis-Kling, Moffat County High School American Government and U.S. History teacher, poses in her classroom Friday afternoon. Davis-Kling hosts mock elections in her classroom each election year and requires her students to attend local government meetings.

Photo by Bridget Manley

Liane Davis-Kling, Moffat County High School American Government and U.S. History teacher, poses in her classroom Friday afternoon. Davis-Kling hosts mock elections in her classroom each election year and requires her students to attend local government meetings.

Making politics personal

MCHS teacher uses local government, elections in curriculum

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Liane Davis-Kling doesn't rely only on a book to teach American government.

She doesn't need to. The vestiges of her subject surrounds her.

Davis-Kling, Moffat County High School American Government and U.S. History teacher, makes students attend local government meetings and discover where they stand on political issues.

And, with Election Day a month and a half away, adult voters aren't the only ones studying up on election issues. Davis-Kling's students also will take a close look at November's ballot.

In the end, it all counts for a grade.

"Government is around you all the time," she tells her students. "It affects you right here - it's not just Washington, D.C.

"We don't live near Washington (D.C.), so I can't take you on a field trip to Washington.

"But I can certainly get you to City Council."

Davis-Kling requires her students to attend one local government meeting per semester and to write a report about their experiences. In the past, she's taken students to visit government agency offices, including those of the Colorado Department of Transportation and the Bureau of Land Management.

Davis-Kling also tries to transform American politics from theoretical to personal realms.

Students first explore the beginnings of the two-party system. Later, they take an online survey that asks their opinion on various issues.

Where they stand determines where they land on the political scale, from conservative to liberal and everything in between.

But she doesn't require her students to show her or anyone else their survey results.

"I tell them : this is your personal information," Davis-Kling said. "If you wish to share this with somebody, you go for it."

It's part of her desire to keep her classroom neutral on political issues.

"We are not going to campaign for either side," she said, "because that's not our job."

On election years, the political system becomes more than a subject of study.

Davis-Kling usually sets aside a few days before the election to review proposed amendments with her students, focusing on how the amendments would affect students if passed.

Then, on Election Day, students cast their votes in class using sample ballots. Davis-Kling tallies the vote that night.

The next morning, she posts the results from each class on the blackboard and adds them up to show a combined vote for all the classes. If she has access to Craig and Moffat County voting results, she posts them, too.

In the past, student votes don't differ much from those of the local population, Davis-Kling said. Sometimes, however, generational differences do become apparent, especially on amendment votes.

"Basically : if the kids think one thing would be really great, the adults don't," she said.

Davis-Kling, who has taught at MCHS for 27 years, has incorporated elections into her curriculum for longer than she can remember.

The reason stems from a sense of duty.

She said students who are U.S. citizens have a right to vote.

"So, therefore, it is my job as a government teacher to tell (students) about the process - to teach (them) about the process of how we go about voting in the United States," Davis-Kling said.

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