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Midterm Elections: Encouraging Students to Participate in Democracy

October 29, 2018

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Jeff Hersh

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The Midterm Elections have stirred up a lot of interest and debate in the media. Politics has twenty-four-hour coverage in papers, television news, podcasts, and on social media. While most students won’t be able to vote until after they graduate high school, it doesn’t mean they should be shut out of their own participation in democracy. The most important right that citizens of the United States of America have is exercising their right to vote. While turning eighteen means a citizen is allowed to vote, in order to become lifelong participating voters involved in a democracy, young adults need to learn how to understand the policies and politicians who are running to represent their values and hopes for their government, community, and country.

 

DISCOVER WHO’S RUNNING AND WHY

 

As we approach Election Day, focus on the positions and candidates voters will choose in your local government. Students can research and report to the class. Some students can inform their classmates on the positions, some can report on the biographies of the people who are running, and some can report on the propositions that are up for a vote. This activity shows students the importance of listening to learn why we’re voting in the first place and to start forming their own opinions on what speaks to them and their values.

 

HOST A DEBATE

 

As students continue to learn about the local election race, they can start to take a stand on who and what they would vote for. Once they start making these choices, teachers can allow students to debate in class. This is an opportunity to teach students to form an argument and also to learn how to listen respectfully to someone who disagrees with them. Guide students to focus on listening and understanding their opponents and allow them the chance to try and persuade the undecided students to their side. The teacher has the chance to teach civility in debate, and encourage students to become empathetic towards others even when they disagree.

 

ALLOW STUDENTS TO ASK QUESTIONS

 

The key to engaging students in politics and embracing their eventual right to vote is to encourage them to listen, learn, and ask questions about the election. Have students do their research, listen to the different sides of the debates, and then synthesize it into their own words. Create an environment where students can ask questions about politics to their fellow students or to teachers and administrators. The key is helping students be curious, interested, and engaged with what is at a stake on this and every election day.

 

What are ways you encourage students to participate in democracy in your classroom?

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