Presidential Debate Style Critiqued by K-12 Students from Across the Country

Students at Connections Education-supported online schools discuss debate successes and failures in live online discussion

Baltimore, MD (October 21, 2016) – They may not be able to cast a ballot on November 8th, but that hasn’t stopped students from closely monitoring the presidential campaign and debates this fall. More than 65 online school students in grades K-12 from Connections Education-supported schools across the country came together yesterday in a live online classroom to discuss the latest presidential debate and their views about the candidates’ debate styles.

“I’m so proud of our students for taking the time to really understand and critique the debates, and their ability to present their views in a constructive, civil manner,” said Christine Krueger, International Connections Academy teacher and a host of the online event. “It’s always fun to see our students involved in the political process, really thinking and analyzing the candidates based on what they hear from the candidates themselves,” added teacher Jerry Krummel. Krummel, a Connections Learning teacher and former Oregon mayor and state legislator, moderated the event.

The round table discussion focused on debate style, as well as each candidate’s evolution throughout the three debate appearances. “I think, of both candidates, Donald Trump evolved the most,” said Malcolm, a student from Colorado. “As an inexperienced debater, he had to cut down on his usual rhetoric and learn about reducing some of his more aggressive attacks and acting more calm and composed, as well as provide more research. Clinton is experienced, capable, and is used to debating, so she didn't have to change much,” Malcolm added.

Students evaluated which debate tactics were effective or ineffective in getting messages across, with opinions varying widely. “Personal attacks are really successful because the country is so divided,” said student Amy. Bridget, from Pennsylvania, disagreed, “The negativity isn’t convincing voters.”

“Trump’s body language is really bad, he’s not very refined,” noted student Gouri, who lives in Illinois. “Trump’s tactic is to say what he thinks and get it out before the moderator can stop him,” agreed student Liam, from Georgia. “I don’t like it, but it’s effective.”

On the other side of the aisle, “Hillary is very good at using ethics and emotional appeals to get voters on her side,” said student Andrea. “Hillary is very effective in getting her message out, making eye contact and using life experiences to answer questions,” agreed Gouri.

While some thought one candidate came out on top of the debates, others weren’t as convinced. “Hillary avoided the questions [during the debates],” said student Madelyn, from Iowa. “Trump did that during the Republican debates, but now he answers what is asked.” “I don't think that either of them answered the questions with integrity. They continued to try to work around what was asked,” responded student Jada.

Because students in Connections Education-supported schools and programs have the flexibility to learn anywhere there is an Internet connection, students from several online public schools, blended high schools, and the International Connections Academy online private school were able to come together for the online event. Students from across the country participated, with over 10 students coming from northeastern and mid-Atlantic states, over 20 from southern states, another 10+ from the Midwest, and over 10 students from western states. Three students from outside the USA also joined the online discussion. Students ranged from 4th to 12th grade, with the vast majority being too young to vote in this year’s election.

For more information about the event and Connections Education, visit