As schools start this fall, Rock the Vote wants every student to have a new favorite subject - Democracy Class. The free and non-partisan class taught by Rock the Vote staff and volunteers teaches students about the history of voting, the connection between issues they care about and those they elect to office, and why their vote matters. The lesson engages students with music and pop culture, a mock election, and a step-by-step walkthrough of the voter registration process.
For many of the nearly 13,000 young people turning 18 every day, high school is their main source of civics education. Unfortunately, the numbers tell us that not every student has equal access to what should be an essential part of America's curriculum. As of 2009, only 21 states included civic learning in their state assessment and accountability systems.*
In response, Rock the Vote is doing our part by working with educators, artists, and elected officials to bring civics back to the classroom and get the future leaders of our democracy engaged early on.
We know that this kind of civics education is key to our mission of registering young people. We know the number one reason why young people don't register to vote is that they don't know how; every student deserves to be empowered with this knowledge.
Starting Tuesday in Los Angeles and Washington DC, Rock the Vote will be empowering students from coast to coast during a month-long series of Democracy Class events. At Arleta High School in Los Angeles, California Secretary of State Debra Bowen and hip-hop group Cali Swag District (check out their message to young voters below!) will join Rock the Vote in the classroom. Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., Democracy Class will be in session at The School Without Walls with rapper and former public school teacher Tabi Bonney. Throughout the month, a series of classroom presentations will also take place in Denver, CO, Columbus, OH, Orlando, FL, Raleigh, NC, and Philadelphia, PA.
We're excited to have Democracy Class supported by a dynamic advisory board of public officials, education leaders and artists, including: Secretary Bowen, Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed, Green Dot Public Schools Founder and Chair Emeritus Steve Barr, and Benji and Joel Madden of the band Good Charlotte. You can see the full list of these civics education advocates on the Democracy Class site.
In tandem with our largest midterm voter registration drive ever, Democracy Class is an important part of Rock the Vote's outreach plan in 2010. Turning 18 and becoming eligible to vote is a tremendous rite of passage, and here at Rock the Vote we want to highlight that for every student in this country. It's the ideal moment to make a life-long commitment to voting.
*Data from the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools.
Follow Heather Smith on Twitter: www.twitter.com/rtvhs