MODESTO -- In local classrooms, President Barack Obama is winning.
Young fans say he's friendly and he's been president for as long as many can remember without messing up too much. Mitt Romney's supporters say he's nice, sticking by their man under keen peer pressure.
While those small hands won't pull official polling levers in Tuesday's election, they will live longer than the rest of us with its results. From the economy to ecology, deficit to diplomacy, choices made at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. will help shape the world they inherit.
High school juniors and seniors take that notion seriously some acting and arguing for change, others cynical and apathetic.
In Kari McCoy's Advanced Placement government class at Beyer High, students presented pro and con arguments for the ballot propositions. "They also like to debate the pros and cons of the candidates and are quick to tell you what they like and don't like about both," McCoy said.
Several of her students volunteered to help the campaigns of 10th Congressional District candidate Jose Hernandez and Riverbank City Council candidate Leanne Jones-Cruz.
At Ceres High, economics teacher Bill Curlis had students watch a taped presidential debate in class, discussing the economic policies of each candidate.
U.S. government teacher Becky Rodriguez held class discussions on state propositions and candidates, and said she plans to hold a mock election Monday. Class lessons include how to register to vote, giving extra credit if a student or one's family member registers.
Only two out of 12 18-year-olds voting
At Argus High in Ceres, government course teacher Cindy Bettencourt found many eager to debate the decisions, but few in her classes took that action step and registered. Only two out of a dozen 18-year-olds will be voting, a quick survey found last week.
Those votes lost likely would have been for Obama. In mock elections held in Bettencourt's four U.S. government classes, there were only seven votes for Republican nominee Mitt Romney, she said.
Alexis Broussard, one of the two who did register, said, "If Romney wins, women are going to have no rights again." She said the Republican agenda in general "is not a progressive movement to the future. It's just movement back."
Students watched the debates with dismay. "They were acting like kids," said Jesus Sanchez as classmates around him nodded in agreement.
Political ads by both parties were universally disdained as "just lies." There were strong feelings, mostly against, on ballot measures as well.
Proposition 33, allowing higher auto insurance rates for inconsistent coverage, would be a problem for senior Gustavo Rodriguez. "My parents don't have insurance at all, and if that passes, it's going to be really hard to get it," Rodriguez said.
Delina Gonzales was bothered by a provision in Proposition 34, to end the death penalty, that inmates work and be paid. "It was really weird to me. People who have killed, have victimized people, would get jobs while innocent people can't find work," she said.
Most high schools had election activities or votes, but teachers at many grade levels took advantage of this year's hot topics and close election to bring social studies lessons to life.
At Enslen Elementary in Modesto, Marcia McGinnis drew up contrasts between the presidential candidates and planned a class election Tuesday.
Lakewood Elementary third-graders in Modesto took up Time for Kids activities on how presidential elections work, presidents in history and campaign slogans.
Eighth-graders at Spratling Middle School in Keyes will hold a mock presidential election on Election Day.
At Martone Elementary in Modesto, fourth-grade teacher Machele Crane said she tried to present both sides evenly, but found her 9- and 10-year-olds came with opinions in place.
"A lot of the kids have preconceptions, and then when we read about it they say, 'Well, that's not what my dad said,' " Crane said.
Her class voted via computer in a nationwide Studies Weekly Student Election on Oct. 30, all but a handful picking Obama.
"He's going to make a better future," said Cathy Bernal.
"Obama knows how to work with the children he has some," said Brianna Villalobos.
Mariana Brambila, however, stood up for Romney. "He'll make the world a better place," she said.
The class took up a lesson on presidential policy positions Tuesday after voting.
On the Net:
Growing Voters, free classroom lessons developed by Lesley University Professor Jo-Anne Hart, www.growingvoters.org
Lynn University K-12 videos, https://itunes. apple.com/us/course/id551174096
Biographies and positions of all five presidential candidates, http://2012election.procon.org
Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2339, and on Twitter, @NanAustin.