Hey teachers! Hey youth workers! Let’s get kids politicking!

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Thursday, March 28, 2013 View Count = 1616

Hey teachers! Hey youth workers! Let’s get kids politicking!

On Tuesday, Meaghan Langille, a Democracy Talks contributor, talked to us about high school civics class.

She told us she wished civics had taught her to engage politically in a personally meaningful way -- to take action on issues and causes she cares about. “Civics class was all about voting,” she told us. She didn’t learn to write a letter to an MP until she hit university.

We know that extensive research backs up Meaghan’s suggestion for issue-based civics class, and that providing young people hands-on opportunities to engage in politics can increase their political participation later on in life.

In Canada, Ontario is the only province with mandatory civics class. Still, most schools across the country take time to educate students in the basics – how parliament works and how to vote – but in our research we’ve found little emphasis on helping students to become politically active citizens.   

At the Civic Action Project in Los Angeles, students are tackling huge political issues and immersing themselves in civic engagement. Click on the photo to read the students' action plans and find  helpful resources.

Samara is gathering resources to try and make the process of teaching politics easier for educators and students alike. Following up on Meaghan’s suggestion, here are some of the best programs that we’re following:

  • CIVIX provides hands-on political learning opportunities for students. These range from student budget consultations to mock elections and visits from government representatives. They also hold "Democracy Boot Camp" workshops for teachers who want to learn more about politics and bring it back to the classroom. 
  • Apathy is Boring provides teachers with simple resources and handouts on topics such as "10 tips for effective organizing" and "how to become a member of a political party".
  •  The Civics Education Network brings Canadian teachers together for an annual conference to share best practices in civics education.  We interviewed its founder Stephen Kagansky-Young a few months ago. 
  • Civic Action Project, based in Los Angeles, helps teachers guide students through choosing an issue they care about, and creating a political campaign to achieve change on that issue. Their website has lots of resources for teachers, and a forum where students can network with other students working on similar causes. 
  • If you want to get the youth you work with thinking about running for political office, reach out to the Canadian Association of Former Parliamentarians.
Of course, teachers who want an interactive discussion about politics should also reach out to Samara, and we can help you hold your own Democracy Talks workshop or show you how to use the MP Exit interviews in your classroom (Get in touch with Kendall).

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