Vermont Votes for Kids: A project of the Vermont Secretary of State
for Grdes 9-12, Teacher Materials for Lesson 20:
What Can One Person Do?
"A lot of young people don't vote because politicians don't pay attention to them. Meanwhile, politicians don't address young people because they don't vote. It's a cycle that needs to be broken."
(National Association of Secretaries of State report)
This lesson combines introductory and two follow-up activities. Students will be shown empirical evidence of the impact of individual votes on election results and on our nation's history. They will also be confronted with evidence of the relative non-participation by the youngest U.S. citizens eligible to vote, ironic as it is in light of the passage of Amendment 26 which allows 18 year olds to vote. Finally, activities will lead students to an awareness of the positive impact of civic involvement, including involvement by young people, throughout our history. This lesson is designed as a higher-level analytical lesson, therefore it is especially adaptable to an Honors or Advanced Placement class.
You should explain the terms "ignored constituency" and "vignette" which the students will encounter in their lesson. You might also wish to explain that the graph of voter turnout shows only Presidential election years; the midterm election turnout is always lower.
For this lesson, you will need to copy and distribute to each student the lesson WHAT CAN ONE PERSON DO? and the graphic chart "Voter Turnout by Age Groups." Write the following discussion questions on the board or overhead, or copy and distribute them.
Once students have read the quotes in the lesson and studied the "Voter Turnout By Age Group" chart (1976-1996), arrange them in small groups of three or four to address the discussion questions. Small groups will facilitate each student's engagement with the questions and with peer views in advance of a seminar with the class as a whole.
"We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
(Preamble to the Constitution, 1787)
Have students read the examples of civic contributions by young people in our nation that have promoted the general welfare in big and small ways. This is best read in class, either silently by each student or with several students of your choosing reading a part of it aloud in sequence.
Then, ask students to interview others, seeking further examples of civic involvement and its beneficial effects. They are asked to culminate the assignment with a well-written one-page paper that addresses these items:
Vermont Secretary of State Deb Markowitz: http://www.vermontvotesforkids.com