The election is right around the corner. You may be thinking, as an educator, that it is probably a good idea to teach students about the political process. If you are in Indiana, you are technically required to do so according to Indiana Code 20-30-5-4:
Sec. 4. (a) Each public school and nonpublic school shall provide within the two (2) weeks preceding a general election for all students in grades 6 through 12 five (5) full recitation periods of class discussion concerning:
(1) the system of government in Indiana and in the United States;
(2) methods of voting;
(3) party structures;
(4) election laws; and
(5) the responsibilities of citizen participation in government and in elections.
Nobody is actually going to come around and make sure schools are doing this. However, it is important that students know the way elections work. If you have put off civics education until now, here are some ways to educate students on the political process.
- Talk about all three branches of government not just the president.
Students need a foundational understanding of our government structure before they can understand the executive branch and its election. A lot of people talk about the presidential election first and end up having to clear up misconceptions.
- Discuss political parties before the electoral process but not the issues
Political parties are not part of our constitution De Jure, but De Facto they matter as much as any structure maybe even more so. You cannot understand our modern presidential election process without understanding political parties. This is not a lesson on the issues yet; all students need to know at this time is that different parties have different opinions, and their main goal is to get their candidate elected. Don’t go down the rabbit hole of what they believe before they understand how the election works.
- Teach the history of voting in the United States.
You can tell people that it is important to vote or you can show them the long bloody road it took for people to get there.
- Discuss the electoral college.
There are a lot of college educated adults that thought our election was decided by popular vote. Make sure your students know otherwise. Sites like 270 to win have fun interactive maps that let you change states in real time. Talk about how the electoral college makes some states more crucial than others.
- Host a class election.
You can simulate pretty much every part of the general election from the parties to the primaries. It’s fun and actually a significant step up on Bloom’s taxonomy of learning than simply discussing.
Elections are no longer uniquely American, but they are the thing that reminds us of what it’s supposed to mean to be one. It is important to have people engaged in the pollical process when they are younger because they are more likely to become voters when they are older.