Mercy Students Become Informed Voters
By Carrie S.
Social justice and chemistry came alive for students at Mercy High School, San Francisco, during the fall election season.
Seniors enrolled in social justice as their religious studies class read the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) document on faithful citizenship as background for staging a debate focused on the extent to which the Democratic and Republican party platforms embodied the principles of Catholic Social Teaching. Students were required to conduct research using each presidential candidate’s official website as well as nonpartisan sites, seeking to learn the candidates’ positions on health care, immigration, social security and other issues relevant to safeguarding human dignity and protecting the poor and vulnerable.
In discussing her rationale for developing this project, Social Justice teacher Angelica Quiñónez stated that “I wanted students to learn the importance of participating in the political process, not just as voters, but as informed voters. I wanted them to know that these social issues are not abstract—they affect real people’s lives.”
Sophomores and juniors enrolled in chemistry focused particular attention on Proposition 37, a measure on the California ballot that called for the labeling of food containing genetically modified ingredients. In the weeks leading up to the election, students read, wrote about and discussed one article each week that examined the various facets of this complex issue.
On Election Day, the entire student body had the opportunity to participate in a mock election organized by members of the Campus Life Team. In voting for President and Vice-President of the United States, students chose from three sets of candidates. These individuals were identified on the ballots not by name, nor by party affiliation, but rather, by their positions on various issues, including budget priorities, health care, immigration, the environment, and the economy. Using this procedure, the Democratic Party candidates came in first place, the Green Party candidates came in second place and the Republican Party candidates came in third place.
Students also voted on three of the propositions which appeared on ballots in California: Proposition 30, which called for increasing taxes to fund public education; Proposition 34, which called for the abolition of the death penalty; and Proposition 37. In Mercy High School, San Francisco’s mock election, all three of these measures passed with strong majorities.