On September 26, I was given the incredible opportunity to attend the pre-debate programming held at Hofstra University. The high school event focused on providing teenagers who will become voters in the next election with insight into how the nation has changed throughout election cycles and how voting Americans will face a momentous decision on November 8.
At the same time that millions of Americans tuned in to watch the first presidential debate between Democratic candidate, Mrs. Hillary Clinton, and Republican candidate, Mr. Donald Trump, a few other students and I sat down in a large lecture hall to watch the live broadcasting which was a mere three buildings from where the candidates were standing.
Though many of the students sitting around me were politically aware and had watched either the primary or 2012 debates, our proximity to the real action enhanced the viewing experience and provided a deeper connection to become invested in the direction in which America is headed because, after all, we will soon be joining the labor force and the electorate of the nation. Furnished with the knowledge we gained in the by listening to our parents’ views for the past 17 years, our history classes, and the day’s previous lectures and discussions, we watched intently as the candidates made their entrances.
At the very beginning of the debate, a hush fell over the audience as the candidates walked in. We were all waiting to see if Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton would shake hands. Several media experts had began predicting that they would not do so earlier in the day as we transversed Issue Alley and attended several discussion and lecture-based programs.
Throughout the rest of the debate, students watched intently as the candidates spoke, argued, and responded. Watching the debate with people who were interested in the content proved to be a refreshing experience because most people would view the debate with their parents, most of whom already have formed a political identity comprised of specific views, either cherry-picked from various platforms or aligned with one party.
The event was one example of experiential learning that Hofstra offers. Experiential learning is a style of learning conducted outside of a traditional classroom, and the lecture hall and courtyard of a college campus is certainly not the traditional learning environment for high school students. The central idea of experiential learning is that interacting with the content in a lively and engaging manner helps students retain information, conduct more thorough and thoughtful analysis, and make more meaningful connections to that which they learn.
All in all, the debate viewing party was the logical and perfect conclusion to a long day of participating in discussions and listening to media professionals speak about the various aspects of the debate and election process because the discussions and news experts made predictions about how the candidates would select their responses, behave, and conduct themselves in front of a multi-million viewer audience.