Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Democracy in Action

A 5-lesson curricular program on democracy and voting

Arsalyn Program's Democracy in Action civic education program (free download) brings high school students trained by their teachers into elementary schools to teach students about democracy and voting. Democracy in Action entails four lessons addressing key aspects of American citizenship and a fifth session devoted to a voting simulation with real voting equipment. The voting simulation is timed to coincide with real elections. Participating students simulate voting on the same candidates/initiatives as qualified voters in their area.

The first two lessons focus on four concepts key to American democracy:
  • majority rule
  • individual rights
  • representation
  • the law
The last two lessons focus on the voting process - from registration and information to election campaigns and voting.

The purpose of Democracy in Action is to begin familiarizing students with the meaning of citizenship and the mechanics of voting at an early age. Democracy in Action is designed in response to several reports, among them a 1999 report sponsored by the National Association of Secretaries of State, that identify a lack of familiarity with how voting machines work as a barrier to youth civic participation and urge educators to begin teaching young people about citizenship at an earlier age (New Millenium Project, National Association of Secretaries of State, 1999).

Democracy in Action is designed to benefit not only participating elementary school students, but their young student-instructors as well by providing the latter with an opportunity to review and augment their knowledge of democratic theory and practice in preparation for their role as instructors.