With the federal election less than two weeks away, the SMUS Review asked some of our politics and history teachers to write about why it’s important to bring this real-world event into the classroom. As our students (all of whom are not eligible to vote in this election) will have opportunities to exercise their democratic right once they reach 18, we believe it’s important for students to pay attention to the federal election and the issues that our political leaders and representatives are discussing.
by Mr. Bruce Maxwell, History and Law teacher
The federal election is fast approaching, and it is very important for the youth in Canada to be informed about what each of the political parties stand for. In fact, one would probably be hard pressed to find any adult that would suggest that the youth should not be informed, as this is as close to a truism that one could find. This is because it seems obvious that even though many of the Canadian youth (like our SMUS Senior School students) may not be old enough to vote in this election, many of them will become eligible to vote in the next one.
Within the hallowed halls of St. Michaels University School, there has been a conscious effort demonstrated by Senior School staff to bring the federal election into the classroom. Mr. Graham Lilly has invited party representatives from the Victoria electoral district to come and speak to our senior-level students about their political agendas, in terms of what their parties stand for and represent to the voters. These presentations, which encourage student questions, have been very informative.
The fact that we live in a democracy which allows us to demonstrate our ability to elect the political party that we think would best represent us is a luxury. We have learned this through history; Canadian soldiers fought in two World Wars in order to defend our freedom and preserve all of the rights that we are privileged to enjoy every day. This is reason enough for us to get out and vote.
We should encourage the youth to use their voice and be heard in preparation for when their voices will be more powerful than the generations before and after them. Also, if adults who are eligible to vote make it a point to vote, then we are role-modeling for our youth that they should do the same.
The reality is that voter apathy is a major concern in this country, as we had one of the lowest turnouts in the last federal election. Where did it go wrong? Are Canadians too busy that there is not enough time to vote? Are the political candidates too boring? Are the political parties not relevant to our lives? It is unfortunate that these questions arise. The eligible voting population has lost our voice, so let’s give it to the youth to help us get it back.
The youth of today should be informed about political issues so that they can rectify the low voter turnout in order to get it right, and to ensure that we will always have the truest representation of leadership in this country. We need to have the youth understand the impact of how politics impacts every aspect of our lives. The youth need to comprehend how political decisions are made, and why political parties are different from each other.
The youth should pay attention to elections and inform themselves so that we can have the best Canada that we can – now and for the future. This election is going to be exciting; I am totally pumped to vote!
by Ms. Danielle Beare, AP Government and Politics teacher
Students learning about politics, especially in the beginning stages of their learning process, is about engaging in conversations. Giving the students the opportunity to feel like they are part of their society and can be an active citizen is important to building strong foundations of our democracy.
Understanding the federal election is an important aspect to politics that many students (and adults) don’t feel comfortable with. Locally, many understand their surroundings and how politics can affect them on a personal level. It is important for students to understand the impact politics have on a global scale and that our local actions and political choices could and will affect the entire world.
Having the federal election this fall has certainly helped to enrich our AP Comparative Government and Politics course. As part of the course, students have already learned about all major electoral systems, government formats and parties. We can now apply these theories to Canada immediately with our federal election.
Having the local candidates visit our school has been a tremendous learning opportunity for all students and staff at SMUS. The presentations were appropriate for all levels of comfort. For those that are very new to politics, listening and trying to understand the role of the politician; and for the more politically comfortable, the opportunity to ask questions about their future and hear their potential local representative respond was powerful. We were impressed by the maturity of the students and by the thought-provoking questions they asked the candidates. It displayed the engagement and curiosity our students have with current issues and future policies.
SMUS will participate in a mock student vote on Oct. 15 at both the Middle and the Senior School. Students will have the opportunity to understand the different roles in running and tabulating elections, and they’ll also have the opportunity to be an active citizen and vote. The election will give all students a tangible understand of the electoral process. This process – from learning the theory, listening to the local candidates, discussing the national debates in class, and then finally casting their vote – has given the students a “real life” experience of a Canadian citizen. We look forward to comparing the school’s voting results with the national results.
Our department hopes that this process will instill in the students that being an active citizen is an important role. Engaging in meaningful conversations, discussing with an open mind and asking questions and being curious about their future is important to each of them and to the country.