Members of the Leagues in NYS are certainly aware of the importance of engaging and educating our youth in civic education. Our statewide program, Students Inside Albany, as well as all the youth programs that local Leagues sponsor such as Vote 18, Running and Winning, and Take Your Child to Vote , etc all focus on involving and educating youth. At a time when so many of our citizens feel alienated from our government especially because of the polarization in our government, it is more important than ever to reach our youth. They are our future.
The Commission on Youth Voting and Civic Knowledge (part of The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, CIRCLE) has recently released their report “All Together Now: Collaboration and Innovation for Youth Engagement” (see full report here). The report confirms what League members already know:
- “Teaching tomorrow’s leaders to be informed, responsible citizens emerges as a vital long term solution to political dysfunction.”
- What we may not have known is that after collecting data from over 6,000 young adults and 720 high school government teachers, ¼ of the teacher surveyed believed that parents would object to politics being brought into the classroom and that attending racially diverse high schools predicted lower levels of engagement and voting.
You certainly are encouraged to read the entire report. However, I brought these two findings up because they should be considered when we are contacting schools and planning our youth programs. An example might be if we have limited time and resources and several schools to choose from as to where we will do our program, it may certainly be more effective if we choose a racially diverse school where we can have the biggest impact.
Also, if we come in contact with teachers or administration who are reluctant to have us bring politics into a discussion, we can work with them and help them understand the importance of what we do. Certainly the fact that we are nonpartisan and never support a party or candidate is helpful. I know from my own experiences of presenting Vote 18 where we do bring up controversial topics like gun control, immigration, and abortion, I let the teacher know ahead of time and if they feel any topic is too controversial for their area, I omit it. Truthfully, this rarely happens but teachers are always grateful they were consulted.
The LWVNYS does wonderful work with our youth. We have an excellent reputation. Let’s continue to expand what we already do and learn from one another. Don’t forget to share your programs with other leagues on our Youth Page of the state website.