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HomeSchool News2024 PHHS Civics/Gov Presidential Town Hall

2024 PHHS Civics/Gov Presidential Town Hall

PARSIPPANY — The Parsippany Hills High School’s Civics and AP Gov classes hosted their eagerly anticipated annual town hall debates. Each year, the nature of the event changes based on what election is occurring around that time; this year it happened to be the Republican and Democratic Presidential Primaries. 

About a month ago, students had to apply for a candidate they wanted to represent, after six students were chosen between both the Civics and AP Gov classes, those students were then able to choose who their “press secretary” and “campaign manager” would be and they were also granted two propagandists. Over several weeks, these campaign staff and candidates worked hard doing extensive research, hanging up propaganda, and even speaking or “campaigning” in other history classes. Leading up to the event, the school’s walls were decorated with propaganda from all candidates, attempting to persuade students and staff to vote for them as their party’s nominee. 

The candidate delivering a compelling speech is captured in the image above, passionately addressing the audience during Parsippany Hills High School’s annual town hall debates.

The hour-long debates were held four times each day in the school’s auditorium. Dozens of students from history classes poured in, many of whom had prewritten questions for specific candidates. Superintendent, Dr. Robert Sutter was also in attendance for one of the town halls. The debates commenced with the moderator asking each candidate a general opening question: Why would you be a good candidate for the Republican/Democratic party? Afterward, they were asked a second question: If elected, what would be the one problem you would like to solve after inauguration? Then each candidate was asked two pre-screened questions from the audience. Finally, the campaign managers were invited to go up and students and the floor opened up for questions, many of which touched on topics such as immigration, inflation, abortion, climate change, and foreign relations. Some even pressed on the candidates’ personal life or their previous statements. The crowd was sufficiently entertained watching candidates pounce at every opportunity to spin a question into a clever way they could disparage their opponents.

one of the candidates is engaging with the audience, delivering a persuasive speech during Parsippany Hills High School’s annual town hall debates

A couple of days later on January 12th, the student body voted, and here were the results. The candidate who won the Democratic Primary was Dean Phillips, who Alex Laviola represented, and the candidate who won the Republican primary was Nikki Haley, who Kesha Patel represented. An additional experimental poll was conducted asking who the students would vote for if it were hypothetically a general election and oddly enough the winner was Donald Trump who was represented by Athon Ros. 

The teachers who run the event, Mr. Bechtler and Ms.Rosendahl, each shared what they thought of this year’s debates. Ms.Rosendahl said, “What makes this project so special is sharing the wealth of this knowledge with the rest of the student body.  It is everyone’s civic duty to be an informed voter and my students helped each Viking become familiar with each candidate and where they stand on current issues.” Mr.Bechtler said, “During the town hall meeting, students attending have a greater opportunity to ask questions, voice opinions, and discuss issues that affect their lives.  Town hall meetings also foster democratic values, encourage community involvement and give students a hands-on experience of the democratic process.  Engaging in mock elections also allows students to gain skills needed to become more informed and active citizens in the future.”

Overall, this year’s debates were entertaining. Congratulations to the winning candidates and all who participated and helped make it a special experience!

Reprinted from Parsippany Focus Magazine, February 2024. Click here to read.

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Parnika Khanna
Parnika Khanna
Parnika Khanna is student at Parsippany Hills High School
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