Since the 2018 Ontario provincial election is looming (tomorrow, actually), I decided to spend a full day in each of my classes this week talking about voting, democracy and looking at party platforms. My students and I had a great learning experience together, since I shared that like many Ontario citizens, I’m torn regarding who to vote for in this provincial election. My goal in this activity was to not only get them involved in learning about the party platforms, but also to help me decide who to vote for through persuasive writing and informal debates.
I used a great article from MacLeans magazine titled the “Ontario 2018 Election Guide”. Essentially, this article breaks down the party platforms into 8 key topics: deficit, work and taxes, hydro, healthcare, drugs and alcohol, education, environment and transportation. I set up my classroom with each topic on half a whiteboard with a cut out of each party’s platform regarding the topic.
My students were put into groups of 2-3 (to allow for conversation) and allowed 3-5 minutes to read, and discuss each topic. They were asked to keep track of which party platform they agreed with for each individual topic, so at the end of their carousel they should have a party platform that they believe would do the best job in Ontario over the next four years. To end the activity, they were asked to write a persuasive entry in their writer’s notebook to either me or their parents, regarding who they should vote for in the upcoming election.
The result? Great conversations with students about what they value and are worried about in terms of the next four years in Ontario, and some fabulous, passionate persuasive writing from many of them trying to convince me of their point of view. Did I mention that none of this was graded? Talk about engagement for the sake of learning!
As a final note to the class, I asked students to go home and share their knowledge with their parents, and start a conversation about who they should vote for ‘as a family’, since many of my students will be effected by the political policies that could be enacted depending on which new government is elected this week. When they returned the next day, I asked how their conversations went.
What I learned was disheartening……many of my students returned to class disappointed that despite trying to have conversations with their parents about who they should vote for, they were cut short due to the fact that their parents: ‘don’t want to vote’; ‘don’t have time to vote’; ‘don’t like any of the parties so aren’t voting’. SIGH. SO FRUSTRATING!
What next? Well – then came the conversations about WHY voting is so important and how DEMOCRACY = STABLE GOVERNMENT = LIVING IN PEACE NOT WAR. Not really hard to explain, since in the past 100 years our world has experienced 2 world wars, a cold war and dozens of civil wars due to dictatorship and unstable government.
Thankfully, not all my students experienced this frustration, and many also shared great conversations they had with parents, guardians and grandparents about who they are voting for. I also had a couple students who changed their parents mind about who to vote for based on the learning they had completed in my class activity, and that was really exciting.
It comes down to this: as parents and teachers, we need to be role models; period. Democracy is the cornerstone of our peaceful, functioning, stable society and our kids need to understand that. If we don’t vote and share our understanding of democracy with our students and children, then they will follow in apathy.
PLEASE VOTE! June 7th is election day in Ontario – show our youth that democracy is important and allow them to share in this experience with you.