How are educators preparing students for the 2024 election?

SUNY Oswego broadcasting professor Jason Zenor will teach a mass media and politics course in the fall semester. Photo by: Matthew Rivenburgh

OSWEGO, N.Y. — As the 2024 presidential election approaches, it raises questions as to what educators are doing to teach and prepare their students for the 2024 presidential election.

SUNY Oswego political science professor Allison Rank said educators play a key role in helping young people gain skills and confidence.

“Teaching civil discourse skills, teaching dialogue, running deliberative dialogue where everyone sort of reads material from both sides that’s been carefully vetted and then engage in a conversation about what people find and what they think afterwards,” said Rank.

When it comes to teaching students, SUNY Oswego history professor William Murphy said he finds it important to teach students how the electoral system works.

“When we get to a year like this year with an election. What I try to emphasize is I try to give some class time over to discussions of how the election works, what they should look for as the election is approaching, understanding the difference between primary and the general election, and understanding the ways that they have available to them to vote,” said Murphy.

When it comes to the 2024 election, SUNY Oswego broadcasting professor Jason Zenor said the same candidates have the same story and same plot line.

“Every election is critical. In a lot of ways this one might be more critical than ever since January 6th and what could be the outcome after. I just don’t feel right now that people are sort of tuned in because this is primary season and we are trying to find out who is going to be the representative of whatever party is not in office,” said Zenor.

Zenor said he tries to spend a lot of time talking about media literacy in the fall 2024 semester.

“Who we can trust and sort of different biases. The biases of partisan news but also the biases of objective news and that sort of thing. Spending a lot of time figuring out how to analyze news because it is not easy. You can’t just trust people because they tell you to trust them,” said Zenor.

Zenor said the traditional news media will not be much different than 2020 or 2016. He also said there is probably more partisan news more so than 2016. 

“ I think even some of the traditional journalism agencies have gone to a subscription model which means their playing to their audience. I don’t think it’s new, it has probably been amplified. Then obviously we have social media even not coming from professional journalists. A lot of people are spreading a lot of information so we will be hit with a lot of information,” said Zenor.

Political science professor Joshua Plencner said taking key issues happening in political life and trying to answer any questions students have.

“We focus pretty heavily on news coverage and news stories that are animating students’ political questions and because it is an election year it is inevitable that we always kind of continue circling back to and this is how politicians are going to be framing their aspiration towards elected office and what we might expect,” said Plencner.

Plencner said public opinion research shows that students right now are paying pretty close attention to what is happening in politics. He also said students need to be prepared to engage in politics.

“What news story is occupying our time or focusing our attention. But being able to put that information into context is where we as educators can step in and say this is how it fits into historical story, whether it is a story about the presidency or elections in the United States or just our political system generally. That’s the kind of contextualization and information that’s really valuable to students right now,” said Plencner.

Plencner said the biggest thing to be thinking about when it comes to the presidential election is the American public knows who the presumptive major nominees are and seems to be skeptical about the two figures Joe Biden and Donald Trump.

“Both of these people have historically low poll numbers at this point and that is pretty suggestive evidence that American voters are not thrilled about the prospects of another campaign season featuring these two pretty well known political figures,” said Plencner.

Plencner said one major curve ball is one of the two candidates has pending criminal trials.

“Donald Trump’s pending criminal trial is gonna be the major major focus of not only our political news coverage but how voters will respond to what potential new information comes to light through that criminal trial, whether or not he is convicted before the election itself. That is the major question that is going to be confronting I think all of us through the next few months,” said Plencner.