We began our unit on politics and elections to day in government. I’m havin students actively debate the current Washington state ballot measures in an effort to show them how difficult it is to be a truely informed citizen. As a way to hook them today I had them vote on a copy of the actual ballot. The reactions were as I expected though much stronger.
The immediate reactions were that the initiatives were difficult to read. I had many students say “I don’t know what I’m voting for,” and “I don’t understand any of this.” After the exercise we debriefed the activity. When I informed students that a large number of people go to the polls in their exact same situation, trying to vote just based on the ballot, they have the same reactions. The students coped with this issue much in the same way as adults do. The had unfinished ballots, made assumptions, voted along party lines, based their votes on advertising, and voted the same way their family does.
What was different is that they were upset with themselves for doing it. The students had a very visceral reaction and made comments that if we don’t know what we’re voting on we shouldn’t be voting. This statement will inform my objevtives for the unit. I hope to give students the tools and skills to overcome those negative feelings and inform themselves instead of giving in to the negative feelings and becoming apathetic and non-participants.