Editor's Notebook

Article excerpt

AS THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION of November 2 draws closer, one of the most creative ways of interesting students in past and present elections is the examination of campaign memorabilia. Buttons, posters, bumper stickers, signs, clothes and accessories send colorful messages in favor of the political candidate of one's choice. And, as Lee Ann Potter points out, they offer civics and history teachers the chance to study elections by assigning students samples of campaign memorabilia so that they can research the featured campaigns and candidates.

Potter's article on campaign memorabilia traces their history to the days of George Washington, and describes their evolution from buttons and silk ribbons to today's huge range of symbols of support for one candidate or aversion to another. As she points out, the presidential libraries that have been established to commemorate presidents from Herbert Hoover to the present are an excellent source of such memorabilia. To them we owe the cover of this issue, as well as the graphics that enhance her article.

In his "Surfing the Net" column, C. Frederick Risinger complements Potter's examination of campaign memorabilia with a list of websites that provide audio or video recordings of past campaign songs, slogans, verses, and ads, as well as presidential speeches going back to the oldest known recording of any president--an address by Benjamin Harrison in 1889. To students used to thinking of history as something that exists only in the pages of textbooks, the sights and sounds of these websites can truly bring the past to life.

More than twenty years ago, Allan Lichtman developed a powerful system for explaining the results of past presidential elections and predicting current ones. The outcome of a presidential election, he maintains, depends on thirteen variables--the Keys. These reflect a wide range of economic, political, social and foreign policy factors. The Keys have shown a greater ability to explain the outcomes of elections than simplistic economy-based models that have often failed to predict close elections correctly. Lichtman's assessment is that the Keys currently favor a second term for President Bush.

Jana Eaton recommends valuable resources for teachers interested in teaching about the reaction of the international media to the presidential election. The internet now permits us to have instant access to the news, views, and political cartoons of many foreign newspapers. Seeing ourselves as others see us can be very educational. Students need to develop their abilities to evaluate material written from different perspectives, and Eaton shares with our readers a form that she has developed for use with websites. Her article will help teachers examine foreign responses to the eventual results of the elections, as well as to the campaigns themselves.

In their analysis of changes in voting technology, Elizabeth M. Yang and Kristi Gaines take us "from chads to fads." They outline the requirements of the Help America Vote Act that was passed in 2002 to eliminate the confusion and problems that arose in the Florida presidential vote count in 2000. …