Today, March 23, educators across the country in partnership with Rock the Vote and the National Education Association, will take part in the kick-off for Democracy Day, a national effort to promote civics education in schools.
by Meredith Barnett
Of the tens of thousands who have been rallying for workers rights in cities and towns across the country, high school students have been among the most vocal groups. In Wisconsin and Idaho especially, teenagers are joining their parents and teachers in large-scale protests against legislation that they believe will jeopardize their education and their future. Many educators believe this upsurge of civic action is a model lesson for their students in how ordinary citizens can affect change.
It’s fitting then that this movement emerged so close to the 40th anniversary of the 26th amendment. In 1971, young activists came together to rally for 18-year-olds to be given the right to vote. Traditionally, young people have been the lowest voting segment of the general population. Although youth voters made up 18% of the voting public in 2008, that share declined to 11% in 2010.
But today, even though more young voters are exercising their political voices than ever, getting youth engaged – and staying engaged – can be a challenge.
That’s where Democracy Day comes in.
“Many of our students are unaware of how to register to vote or even the importance of them voting,” says Meaghan Barber-Smith, a teacher at Bakersfield, California’s Highland High School.
Barber-Smith has signed up to participate in the National Education Association’s and Rock the Vote’s first-ever Democracy Day on March 23rd (the day the House of Representatives approved the 26th amendment in 1971), an exciting new event designed to energize and inform students about voting. To kick it off, Rock the Vote and NEA call on educators to celebrate civic engagement in their classrooms with a Democracy Class lesson plan, a curriculum that uses video and interactive activities to educate soon-to-be voters.