At Blinn College’s Bryan campus, there are three sections worth of students taking a politics class that’s teaching them how to run a political campaign. It’s goal is to get young people interested in politics.
The course includes a 12-week intensive project, asking groups of students to create their own candidates and run those candidates for real public offices, without actually putting his or her name on the ballot. Each candidate has their own twitter account, yard signs, mailers, and fake commercials.
“They learn quickly that running for office is only part of the campaign,” said Gil Schorlermmer, the professor and a former campaign manager. “There are [a number of skills] that are necessary and there are jobs in that.”
Schorlermmer said his goal is to get students, who may have never have never considered a career in public office or politics to give it a shot.
“They see that politics has a place for them,” Schorlermmer added. “I warn them early on in the semester that I'm very good at bringing them to—jokingly—the dark side.”
“What you’re learning in class, you’re taking home and doing,” said Patrick Bailey. He’s the face of a multi-person group that’s branded Bailey as a candidate named Pedro Martinez, after the Napolean Dynamite character.
And, as is the case in politics, the students even take their campaigns negative, drawing a contrasts with their opponents. According to some, it can get passionate. Politics, after all, is a game of winners and losers.
“I think its surpassed the whole ‘its just for a grade’ thing,” Bailey jokingly. “I’ve only seen [one of my opponents] once and I hate him with a passion.”
Bailey added that, while he went into the class without an interest in politics, he now could see himself in the field. Other students use the course as a proving ground for future political glory.
“I’m planning on running for school board at Bryan ISD or Bryan City Council in the next two to three years,” said William Adams, another student in the class, running under his own name. “I love it. It’s exciting.”
At the end, as is the case in real politics, there will be students walking away slightly disappointed. Anonymous students in the class will vote on the outcome of certain races that their groups aren’t involved in.
“Someone will win,” said Schorlermmer. “It wouldn’t be politics if they didn’t.”