Right now my students are studying the Constitution, reading this document word for word. Not an easy task. Some of the language is ambiguous, lots of double negatives and dependent clauses, complicated syntax, new vocabulary. But we have learned the basics pretty clearly about how the system works. Of course, the relevance is that the students also understand this document not as an ideal reflection of our system, but also how it plays out in reality. Sometimes in these discussions it has been very difficult for me to hold in my own political viewpoint. Earlier in my career I was a lot more careful about sharing my political beliefs with my students. Then, maybe 15 years ago or so, I realized it was a lot better to be honest with them about my political point of view and so they would know where I was coming from, a lot more honest than hiding my heart. A lot more honest than leading them in any particular direction pretending there was no political agenda attached. In class, all points of view are still encouraged and respected. All feel safe to share them. Now conversations feel a lot more genuine, more real, and very relevant.
One of our recent discussions has been the value of voting in mid-term elections. How the very few who do vote can manipulate the political agenda through majorities in the congress which do not necessarily reflect the majority viewpoint in the country as a whole. My goal is to make sure that each and every student (in 4 years when they will be 18) will personally commit to vote and to make sure that every one of their friends and family vote too. Though this discussion can get somewhat humorous, I make them all take a vow that they will definitely exercise this right to its fullest extent encouraging all around them to do the same. They know I am dead serious.
I know the video above is slick. I know it glosses over some of the Democratic missteps as well. But, well, it makes the point. Get out and vote and take as many acquaintances as you can with you! Don’t let the few decide for the whole what policies are best for the rest of us. Democracy cannot truly exist if only a minority exercise their rights.
I am dead serious.