Actors Morgan Freeman and Leonard DeCaprio, and the character from TV comedy The Office, Michael Scott, were nominees for U.S. president in the Senior Civics course I observed on September 12, 2016. The district requires the one-semester course for high school graduation. The unit was on political campaigns for the presidency and these actors were candidates that three of the five groups of 27 seniors had nominated. Each group, clicking away on their laptops and tablets while talking to one another were coming up with party labels, nominees and were working on writing a platform. As part of the unit, they would also be creating posters and video ads–all to get their candidate into the White House in November. I was watching a simulation of a presidential campaign .
Sarah Denniston (pseudonym) had invited me to visit her Northern California high school. Hacienda High School (pseudonym) has over 1900 students divided about half white and half minority (Asian and Latino). About 20 percent of the students are eligible for free and reduced lunch–a measure of poverty used in U.S. public schools. Over 95 percent attend college after graduation. About one-third of the students take Advanced Placement exams with well over 80 percent of test-takers qualifying for college credit. Sarah Denniston teaches AP European history and Senior Civics. A graduate (and track star) of the high school in which she now teaches, Denniston has been teaching 10 years at Hacienda.