Candidates make impression on Cromwell students
Most political candidates are used to stumping at rallies or speaking with reporters about issues, but facing down questions from a room full of high school students is a different challenge altogether.
However, Republican candidates Pete Stauber and Jeff Dotseth did just that Friday afternoon, Oct. 12. Stauber, a candidate for Minnesota's 8th Congressional District, and Dotseth, a candidate for District 11A in the Minnesota Legislature, stood for nearly an hour in Tom Schoper's ninth grade civics class at Cromwell-Wright High School and took questions prepared by students.
There were 27 freshmen, while several senior students and other teachers also crowded into Schoper's class to listen the the candidates face down questions from students. Students pepperd Stauber with questions raging from his feelings about President Donald Trump to the economy, taxes, poverty immigration, health care, abortion and even marijuana laws.
In his introduction, Stauber told the students he is running for Congress because he wants to hand down a better country to them that "the Greatest Generation" handed down to him, a sentiment Dotseth echoed. Stauber said the future leaders of Minnesota and the country were sitting in the classroom and he was impressed with the knowledge and tone of the class.
"The classroom was packed and there were very thoughtful questions and I think I learned as much about them as they did about me," Stauber said.
Schoper said before teaching, he worked in politics, working on Arne Carlson's successful write-in gubernatorial campaign in 1990 and several other campaigns. He said since starting teaching he has had every Minnesota governor from Jesse Ventura to Mark Dayton in his classroom. Earlier this week, Democratic Congressional candidate Joe Radinovich took questions from students in Schoper's class and Schoper said it's important to to engage students with politics since, like Stauber said, the state's future leaders are sitting in those desks.
"Some place in this room we've got a school board member, some place we've got a mayor or a state legislator," Schoper said. "These kids don't realize that, but leadership fills vacuums and somebody's got to fill that vacuum. I'm glad (Stauber) said that, because when I tell them they say, 'Really, we're gonna rule the world?'"
Schoper said both candidates today, as well as Radinovich, did quite well. He also takes "all comers" in his classroom and has hosted Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians and even welcoming former Communist candidate for Minnesota governor Erwin Marquit before Marquit's death in 2015.
Students will learn and take more from engaging with candidates than they will from reading in a textbook or taking a test, according to Schoper, and that's what's important.
"The kids will remember this," he said. "They won't remember Chapter 1, Section 3, but they will remember when Joe and Pete showed up."