Teaching Students the Importance of Civic Engagement
Teaching Students the Importance of Civic Engagement
PUBLISHED: Wednesday, October 31, 2018 by Andilynn Feddeler

Voting season is upon us, and although each state has different requirements and procedures, one message is clear: civic engagement is deeply important, and a lesson we must instill in young people. Only about 60% of eligible Americans vote in presidential elections, and even less vote in midterms and odd-year races. Encouraging students to be active in their communities and local politics sets a standard for them to follow as they become responsible, engaged, and informed adults. Habits formed early tend to last, so encourage students to practice their civic duty by:

  • Discussing current events. When possible, connect lessons to what’s going on in the “real world.” Kids may not feel a strong need to engage unless they understand how policies and initiatives affect them and their families.

  • Volunteering. When kids volunteer, they see the value of hard work and what it can do for those in need. Volunteering has many benefits and can help foster empathy and a sense of community. Kids will see firsthand that their actions can cause positive change in other people’s lives, and that may encourage them to practice civic responsibility in the future.

  • Participating in student council. Even if a student isn’t actively involved in the organization, simply voting for class representative allows students to express their opinions and have their voices heard. This shows them that even though they only get one vote, it does matter. Running for a position also has a big impact on how students view decision-making processes and the value of leadership in communities.

  • Campaigning for local elections. Local election voter turnout rates vary by city and state, but the percentages have been historically low. Younger generations can help nudge this trend in the opposite direction by finding candidates they support and working to fundraise and spread the word. Even if kids can’t vote, they can still funnel their energy into helping officials who represent them and their families, as well as participating in protests and marches to bring awareness to important issues.

  • Learning and researching. The most important part of a civics education is making sure that all parties are using up-to-date, unbiased information. There are thousands of great resources just a click away, including readings, videos, activities, and lesson plans. Kids who learn about politics and social justice from an early age develop better critical thinking and leadership skills, and will help pave the way to a more informed and actively engaged society.