“What,” you ask, “is SMAPFY?”

I’m sure that is what you’re asking, isn’t it?

SMAPFY stands for “Supreme Musical Artists of the Past Fifty Years”; it’s a voting simulation that we have been conducting at the Crimson Summer Academy for the past ten summers or so. The idea is to teach high-school sophomores about different models of holding elections, but to use a more familiar situation than the standard competition among politicians. At the suggestion of a former Crimson Summer Academy mentor, we use musical artists rather than politicians. Teens are far more familiar with the nuances of musical preferences than they are with the nuances of political preferences.

They have trouble, of course, with the “past fifty years” bit. At that age, one’s tendency is to think of fifty days, not fifty years. In fact, unless they listen to their parents’s music (as some do), they are not going to have a fifty-year perspective at all. So, look at the results below with that caveat in mind. Also, keep in mind that these are primarily inner-city kids who go to school in Boston and Cambridge.

Because it would be impractical to simulate the Electoral College in this scenario, we limit ourselves to just three voting models: First Past the Post (as in the Massachusetts gubernatorial and legislative elections), Two-Round Runoff (very close to what we have in Boston, but not quite identical), and Cambridge-style Proportional Representation (used for Cambridge City Council and School Committee). We will run the Cambridge simulation later on, but here are this summer’s results for the top three Supreme Musical Artists of the Past Fifty Years using the first two models:

  • First Past the Post: the winners (in order) were Drake, Beyoncé, and Michael Jackson.
  • Two-Round Runoff: the winners (in order) were Drake, Michael Jackson, and Beyoncé.

So, aside from a slight change in order, the results were identical in both methods. Sometimes that happens. Sometimes it doesn’t.

Categories: Dorchester/Boston, Teaching & Learning