I am currently in Washington presenting and learning at the 2012National Forum on Character Education. I’ve attended wonderful breakout sessions, heard amazing keynote speakers, met passionate and committed educators from all over the world and recurring themes seem to be honesty, integrity, and service. With the Capitol building in sight and presidential campaigns reaching their peak, it is refreshing to be reminded of these notions.
As an aspiring citizen I am not yet able to vote, but I have been trying to follow along and learn about the process in the hope that one day I can also participate in the electoral process. After being bombarded for weeks with contradictory T.V advertisements, literature, phone calls and newspaper articles I am beginning to understand what a huge responsibility it truly is. Before casting a vote one must put forth great effort trying to uncover the truth about candidates, proposals, platforms, and policies. I’ve realized that if I want to become a responsible voting citizen, I need to develop a whole new set of skills. I need to take a class on political literacy. It makes me consider the role educators have to play in creating a politically literate society.
My 5th and 6th Grade L.A and Social Studies colleagues at BCS do a phenomenal job of helping students prepare for their civic responsibilities, spending weeks hosting an election simulation. Students are invited to apply for various roles that make up a campaign committee: candidate, campaign manager, publicity manager and speech writer. They are designated a political party which they diligently research, learning about the history of the party, political philosophy and where the party stands on key issues before they launch a full blown campaign.
The student candidate studies and adopts realistic qualities and attributes of the party candidate. The speech writers research major issues, write speeches, and assist on writing media presentations. Publicity managers oversee the development of media presentations such as websites, flyers and posters. The campaign managers organize the schedules, set daily agendas, oversee completion of tasks, and assist in developing all campaign materials. There has been a definite shift in the atmosphere in school in the last few weeks as students have been becoming more involved in the election process. It’s been fun to overhear their conversations in the hallways about the various candidates and their positions. Locker bays have become debating stations and the bathrooms places to lobby. I can only imagine the dinner table conversations that have may have taken place in homes where students were designated to a political party that their parents may not support!
On Election Day students show up in suits and formal wear and it is wonderful to see how seriously they approach the big day. The speeches I have heard student candidates make in the last few days have made more sense to me than any other political ponderings I have been subjected to. Credit must be given to the whole campaign committee and in turn, their teachers for helping these students do something that I have found impossible to do: they have managed to get beyond the massaged facts, the inflated figures, the unsubstantiated contradictory claims and made some sense of a confusing political landscape. I wonder how many adult voters will be able to do the same next Tuesday.
Standing at my hotel window,Washington, D.C. lies ahead of me and the CEP Conference behind me. I can only hope that what lies ahead shares a similar mission to what lies behind: providing the vision, leadership and resources for schools, families and communities to develop ethical citizens committed to building a just and caring world. I am off to enjoy my last few sessions at the Conference which is appropriately titled, Developing Leaders of Integrity.