Helping students understand the power that election outcomes have on their present or future lives, and the lives of their family, can help engage them in the election process. When students recognized the impact of laws and lawmakers on their personal lives, I believe they would pay more attention to all elections. And, once they “get it” the political process could serve them throughout their lives.
In her article, “Schools urging students to learn about major issues and participate in elections: Primary election is setting the stage for civics lessons”, Akilah Johnson of the South Florida Sun-Sentinal, relates how “Thousands of South Florida teens and 'tweens are getting their first taste of the electoral process not through cyber campaigns or virtual debates, but in actual classrooms and real-world polling places”. Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
She describes how students from West Palm Beach to Pembroke Pines have studied the roles of race and gender in politics, voter registration in their state, caucuses, primaries and political parties in civics lessons in the advent of Tuesday's primary election and tax referendum in Florida.
"You've got to find your voice. You've got to make people hear you," said Jay Lowe, an American history teacher at Bak Middle School of the Arts in West Palm Beach. "That's my thing. Whoever has the biggest microphone in this country gets the attention."
Lowe said his eighth-grade students have honed in on three issues that could affect their lives: the war in Iraq, education and Social Security. "Their first thing was: 'Well, I'm 13 years old. I don't care,'" he said. But after a couple of lessons about the Army's recruitment struggles, the draft and the politics behind the state's dreaded, high-stakes FCAT, his students started paying attention to the candidates and their issues in preparation for a mock election which coincides with the Florida primary. Through its “Kids Voting Broward” program more than 5,000 students have cast votes for presidential candidates, mayors and the property tax amendment.
“Thompson Sets Social Security View”, Wall Street Journal
“Without Medicare fixes, Social Security is sunk”, The Seattle Times
- Would our students be more interested in the political process if we connected it to their personal lives?
- What issues or candidates would spark our student interest?
- How could we use upcoming elections to increase learning?
- How could we encourage students to have a voice in their community?