As you all’ probably know there is an election this November, and this year’s election process seems to be quite different from previous years. More candidates have made an effort to create social networks and be visible online. This has made it feel like the voters are closer to the candidates than previous races, and caused many individuals of all ages to try to spread the word about the various candidates in places that aren’t the best for sharing this information.’ I’ve witnessed an increase in debates recently’ at work, on the radio and even on one of YALSA’s listservs.
As librarians it’s our job to provide information about all sides of all issues along with information about registering to vote.’ What we sometimes forget is that since our society is a democracy, we must let everyone make decisions about a candidate on their own, which when you feel passionately about something can be hard to do. While it can be difficult, we can’t share our personal convictions with others because we have to have faith in the system and the people to make the decision that is best for them. Imagine how hard it must be for teens who do not get a chance to vote in this year’s election to keep their opinions about which candidate is best fit for a position. While we want to encourage them to be interested in the election process, we also can help them find healthy places to talk about the candidates.
While teens can’t vote there are some websites available to help them understand the election process, talk about the issues, and host their own election.
Rock the Vote is geared toward voters under 30, encouraging them to vote, read and discuss the candidates stand on issues. The teen version UrVoteCounts features more tween stars, and encourages teens to think about what they would do if they could vote
CreateDebate is a discussion board founded by a debate team in Connecticut. They are hosting a blog that teens can post about the issues and discuss topics in the comments.
Scholastic is offering teachers resources about elections, and hosting a Student Vote for President election.
PBS has developed a website, called the Vote, which uses short videos to illustrate the election process while talking about specific issues. Also on this website focusing on the general election teachers and librarians can find downloadable lesson plans about the election process.
Teen Vogue has also created a blog called Political partner to host conversations about the election.
Myspace is even getting into the election providing teens a place to talke abou the presidental candidates on Myspace Impact which focuses on many issues and Decision08 which is set up as a friendable profile.
Lastly, Campus Activism. org has developed a Facebook application that allows college students to easily register for this year’s election. This seems like a interesting idea to encourage more youth to vote.
So as we enter this presidential election, we can encourage teens to find positive ways to not only learn about the candidates, but also talk about the candidates.
While it can be difficult, we canâ€™t share our personal convictions with others because we have to have faith in the system and the people to make the decision that is best for them.
Do you mean that as librarians and teachers we should keep our mouths shut so as not to unduly influence our students? I have to disagree.
I certainly don’t want to bulldoze over my students’ opinions — I want to help them figure out what they think, and how to express it articulately and argue about it intelligently, even if they disagree with me. But sometimes the best way to do that is to argue *with* them, to point out points of view they might not have considered, to challenge their assumptions. It’s even better if they challenge me right back!
I also think it’s valuable for teens to see adults with a variety of opinions, who aren’t afraid to express them and stand up for them. Part of our job as teachers is to provide role models, after all, and that strikes me as an important thing to model!
That said, thanks for the links! They’re great, and I’ll definitely be looking through them and sharing them with my colleagues and students.
I am sorry that I am unclear in that statement. For me having conversations with teens about which candidate they would vote for if they were 18 isn’t the same as sharing my personal convictions. Often in conversations like these I play the role of probe by asking them the questions who would you vote for, why, what about their policy on ______, We tread a dangerous line however when we tell students that Obama, McCain, or someone else should be president because of a specific reason if the students don’t first expresst interest in our opinion.
Wrong: librarian checking out books at the circ desk telling a teen political feelings
Questionable: librarian telling student who asks which candidate they would vote for. If a student walks up to you to and asks out of the blue which candidate you are voting for it might be best to first reply “who would you?” vote for.
Excellent: librarian asking students who frequent the library (ie have a relationship with the teens) about the politicians without volunteering their preferences until student specifically request it.
Mosting its about who iniciated the conversation, a teen or the librarian, and the purpose behind it.
Thanks for the clarification! I’m still not sure I agree — some of my favorite, most influential (in a good way) teachers in school were the ones who were least shy about expressing their beliefs. It is possible to be open about one’s opinions without making kids feel pressured to share them.
Though as you say, it has a lot to do with the relationship you have with a specific student, and with the climate of the school as a whole.