By Kevin Fitzgerald, Editor
What exactly is the Electoral College? Why are there only two major political parties in the United States? And, can a kid make a difference in the political system?
With the 2016 U.S. presidential election in the home stretch, we’ve put together a short list of resources to help answer these and many more questions during this crucial time in the country’s democratic process. Whether you are from the United States or not, the following resources can help students and families make sense of the upcoming election and find ways to engage in the conversation about it:
- Civics in Uncivil Times: Facing Down the Challenges of Teaching the 2016 Election
It’s no secret that this election has sparked heated emotions and rhetoric from the two major candidates and their supporters, and it would be understandable to want to avoid talking about it all together. However, as this article from the Harvard Graduate School of Education points out, discouraging political talk among students is just not practical or even advisable if we want them to be prepared to exercise their civic rights and responsibilities. Author Leah Shafer provides a list of resources and advice that parents and teachers can use to help middle and high school students study the current election with sensitivity and objectivity.
- C-SPAN’s Student Cam 2017: Video Documentary Competition
While most students in grades 6–12 will not be old enough to vote in the upcoming election, that doesn’t mean they won’t be able to influence the policies of the next U.S. president and elected officials. This C-SPAN competition, which will award $100,000 in prizes to 150 student documentary makers, asks students to create videos answering the question: “What is the most urgent issue for the new president and Congress to address in 2017?” All student entries must be submitted by January 20, 2017, and additional guidelines and requirements are available on the competition website.
- PBS Learning Media’s Election Central
This PBS site is a one-stop shop for resources to answer student questions about the election and generate ideas for related learning activities. Parents and teachers will find videos explaining the election process, including the role of the Electoral College; a timeline spanning the entire history of U.S. presidential elections; and lesson plan resources designed to introduce elementary through high school students to the candidates and other aspects of the U.S. system.
Of course, there are many more resources and ways to learn about the political process in the United States or your home country, and we would love to hear your ideas. While Clonlara School does not endorse any particular candidate or political party, we do endorse learning and encourage our students and families around the world to engage in this conversation with us.
Please share your comments in the space below.