Voting is the most powerful way we use our voices; and young people have a voting voice, even if they are not voting age. See resources and ideas below.
Current Events: What Can Young People Do?
Every day there are opportunities to discuss our role in civil society and decide whether and how to get involved in current events. Learning to Give helps students learn and practice taking action for the common good—yes, this too is philanthropy. This page provides tools and tips related to current events. Look here to involve your students' voice and action to make a difference.
From holidays to elections to triumphs to tragedies, there is always something going on that can spark conversations about what we can do as informed, responsible and generous students.
Find tips and resources about addressing challenging issues in the classroom. Follow these guidelines to establish a safe environment, promote respectful dialogue, back up arguments with facts, and talk about news and current events with students: Difficult Conversations
Help your students evaluate the roles of media, bias, “facts”, and critical thinking related to current events and controversial topics: Media Literacy Tips
Today's Current Event: Voting - Eyes On Youth
The youth vote is front and center in the current political climate and election scene. Millennials will soon be the largest single voting block and post-millennials are not far behind. In addition to these numbers, their activism and rejection of conventional party politics have been widely reported.
Photo Source: United States Election Project
Youth in Numbers
According to one analysis, approximately 50% of eligible young people—about 24 million youth, ages 18-29—voted in the 2016 general election. Turnout in off-year elections has historically been especially low, including among young voters. By one estimate, in 2014, only one-fifth of young people (ages 18-29) participated in that year’s midterm elections—the lowest youth turnout ever recorded by the Census.
With many close races expected, the major political parties will be courting the youth vote with gusto. It’s not too early to educate and guide your students to be aware of the top issues, understand their perspectives, and make their voices heard.
If your students are not of voting age, they still have the power to influence and share their voice! The resources below will give you the support you need to lead conversations, activities, and lessons about voting, civic participation, and the power of voice and choice.
Things to do to activate student democracy:
- Discuss common and personal values to help students understand what they care about and recognized values of leaders.
- Explore the language of the Constitution and Bill of Rights and discuss what it means in today's issues. Lesson Plans
- Learn about the balance of powers and what positions are elected vs appointed.
- Read about local laws, issues, and elections. Discuss how local government impacts the national elections. Why does voting locally matter?
- Voting Toolkit - Find expanded information about voting rules and logistics, lesson plans, and suggested service projects.
- Leadership: A Game of Rights – An activity to get students thinking about rights, responsibilities, and leadership.
- Difficult Conversations - Tips and resources for addressing challenging topics in the classroom.
- Civic Responsibility - A white paper with background information about the importance of civic responsibility to the success of democracy and philanthropy.
- United States Election Project has turnout—broken down by demographics— for recent federal elections. Your state’s Secretary of State will have state election turnout results.
- Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (@Tufts University) researches voting and engagement of young people. This excellent site contains a wealth of data to share with students.
- The Campus Vote Project provides information about where students register and vote through state-specific guides. Students can encourage people to register. More information.
Activity and Class Discussion Tip
Administer a short survey to get students thinking about the topic of voting that then leads into a discussion about voting and civic engagement. (Be sure to view our Difficult Conversations guide to help you navigate the discussion). Include questions such as:
- Do you plan to vote or not when you’re 18?
- On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being totally unimportant and 10 being of the utmost importance, how important is voting to you?
- What is the most important political issue to you and why?
- What comes to mind when I say: “Democratic Party” or “Republican Party”? What platforms do they have and how are they different?
- What questions do you have about voting?
What can young people do right now?
- Host a World Café Conversation (“engaging people in conversations that matter”) for your school/community. Here are some free World Café resources.
- Be an advocate for your POV: Share carefully researched facts and possible solutions with your network and local government.
- Use and teach listening skills to find common ground as you have difficult conversations about issues with strong differences of opinion. We are more alike than different.
In the News
- On The Sidelines Of Democracy: Exploring Why So Many Americans Don't Vote. Just in the past few months, elections in the U.S. have been decided by hundreds of votes. This NPR article dives into the reasons why voter turnout is at an all time low.
- If they vote, young people will be pivotal given polling results that show significant gaps by generation.
- Students are “appearing at candidate events, mounting voter registration drives and threatening to haunt politicians who stand in the way of their demands” and gun control groups are trying to harness that energy
- Will the young people behind the "March for Our Lives" movement be a force this November?
- The current surge of youth activism has revived calls for lowering the voting age to 16.