A few weeks ago, an educator friend wrote to me in desperation. “I can’t find any good resources for teaching young kids about the voting process.” She didn’t want a text book. She wanted great exercises that she could adapt to her kindergarten classroom and share with other teachers in her primary school program. I didn’t believe that, especially in an election year, there was nothing out there. But I soon had to agree with her. It was really hard to find “good resources.”
After some digging around I sent her to The Center for Civics Education which has been creating substantive civics materials for promoting healthy democracy since 1964. I also suggested The Constitution Center in Philadelphia which brings the meaning of our foundational documents to life although their lessons were targeted to an older audience.Family activities that appeared to be quite engaging weren’t loaded onto the site each time we tried to access them. And finally, I suggested that she take a look at this lesson plan posted on the Scholastic site. I thought a talented educator could adapt it for bright, younger students.
Most of the other material I found came packaged with political agendas that tainted what was often a decent intention: democracies must engage their youngest members early in order to create good citizens. But the key idea is engagement, not brainwashing.
My plea today is please vote if you have not already done so. Share that fact with your children if you have children of voting age and urge them to vote too. If your children are young, take them with you to the polls. Let them see how important this privilege and responsibility is. Share stories about voting with them. I remember going with my Mom to vote when I was a kid. I never forgot the moment of solemnity when I stepped into the voting booth with her and she pulled the lever closing the curtains behind us to protect the privacy and importance of her choices. The long line of voters told me that every adult there valued the same thing. Tell your children what is happening all around the world as people fight and die for the right to vote and remind them that a long time ago, we too fought for the right to be independent and free so that each of one of us could have a voice in our own government.
Citizenship should be taught in our schools, but it must be taught in our homes. We the people are responsible for our country—no one else.