Oct. 31, 2008— -- Though they're too young to vote, that's not stopping kids at the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta from having a voice in the election.
Meet the middle-school pundits.
"It turned from this little classroom song, that we're just trying to learn about the issues between the both candidates, into something where the whole world is interested in hearing what we have to say," said Jordan Brown, 12.
"We actually got invited to perform it at a Coca Cola event and we didn't even know anyone was video-ing, but a little lady, she had a video camera and she filmed the students," said Ron Clark, founder of the academy. "She put it on YouTube. The next day, it had 25,000 hits. Next day, it had 50,000, and it just kept spreading and spreading."
As of now, they've gotten well over half a million hits.
The lyrics are catchy: "Obama on the left, McCain on the right. We can talk politics all night and you can vote however you like."
The song was born in the school's debate class. After learning both candidates' stances on all of the issues, the students chose a hit billboard single by the rap artist T.I. and rewrote the lyrics on the issues of the day, from both sides.
The songwriters had to know their stuff, and they studied up.
"It has gotten me excited. I actually know the issues from McCain and Obama," Brown said. "I [don't] just see, 'Oh, that's a black man, that's a white man.' I actually know what they're standing for."
"I am actually a Barack Obama supporter because most of his plans I agree with, and also his plan to fix this economic crisis," said Ossei Avril, 12.
"I am actually supporting John McCain," said Willie Thornton, 12. "I love his policies about the economy, what he feels, how, if you do make money in the stock market, he will reduce the capitol gains tax, and if you lose money, he will give you a tax deduction."
"Even if Barack Obama does not get elected -- I hope he does -- I mean, I still need to know McCain's side," said Ajee Jenkins, 12. "I still need to know the facts about my president."
Teaching Enlivens Students
The Ron Clark Academy isn't afraid to borrow from pop culture if it makes learning come alive. Clark founded the innovative, private middle school after developing successful teaching techniques in Harlem, focusing on etiquette, respect and putting joy into learning.
Clark teaches math with interactive songs, drawing upon rap music to engage students in what could be the most mundane lessons. Students stand on their desks, embracing the choreographed motions. Just look at the faces in the video and you know he's on to something. (Watch the full video of their Internet hit here).
"I thought it was chaotic or a little crazy, then like, 'Whoa! What's going to happen next?'" said Jai Springs, 13.
In grammar class, gerunds and dangling participles move to a beat while students dance on their desks. But these middle-schoolers are the epitome of politeness, and good manners are stressed in the classroom.
The kids are thrilled by the success of their song, and they have a message:
"It's your future, it's your opportunity to make a change in what's going on," Avril said. "So, if you don't vote, then there's basically no purpose for you to be here."
"People are just saying those kids on TV can dance," said Kennedy Pritchett, another Ron Clark student. "I hope they're saying those kids are educated, that we are smart."