A-LIST

5 ways to stay politically involved

To really make change, don’t just vote: stay involved between presidential elections. We serve up five ways your students can do that — and you can, too!

For too many of us, political involvement ends with the last election. It shouldn’t! Whatever you believe, teaching politics in the classroom should include showing students their own opportunities to improve and strengthen our country.

The truth is plenty of “baby steps” are involved in making any big change. Help your students take those steps. If every student understood their own potential for impact, can you imagine how much this nation could accomplish?

Here are five (arguably) small, non-partisan or cross-partisan ways your students can build their political momentum long after Election Day!

1. Join (or launch) a movement or group

Right now, thousands of small groups of passionate people are working every day for causes they believe in. Maybe they’re part of a social justice group promoting the rights of a minority group,or a neighborhood association working to improve residents’ safety, or a religious group campaigning for more representation, or something else altogether.

Joining a group won’t just help your students meet new people and gain confidence: it’ll expand their horizons and help them become part of something bigger than themselves. Help your students see that while social media is an important platform it can’t replace in-person debate and community conversation.

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2. Keep elected officials accountable

Even at the local level, elected officials might not know how their constituents really feel about an issue unless they’re told. Remember: they work for us! Encourage your students to draft an email, letter, or scripted voicemail that calmly and confidently states their position on an issue of personal importance. They can also share their views at city council meetings or government hearings. This list of elected officials at the federal, state, city and county level will give your students a great place to start.

3. Vote in smaller elections

It’s hard to top the media frenzy surrounding an American presidential election. (You’d have to live in an underground bunker to avoid it!) But without thousands of smaller, quieter elections at the city, county, and state level, the big election wouldn’t be possible.

Encourage your students to register to vote in their county. Only then can they become actively involved in congressional elections and vote for local representatives. Even if it’s just a school board meeting, students should learn the mechanics of voting and be reminded that not everyone around the world has the privilege or participating in free elections. (Your campus may already be working with — or may be interested in working with — the Campus Vote Project, which helps institutions encourage students to vote, and helps them remove local obstacles to doing so.)

Never assume that students understand the voting process (many don’t). Remind your students to check out voting rules by state (they vary) and head to https://www.usa.gov/register-to-vote for relevant details.

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4. Watch and read

Too many people believe they’re entitled to opinions without first learning the facts! Help your students understand that facts, not feelings, should inform their vote. Remind students to stay away from overheated campaign rhetoric until they’ve gathered some facts and context — for example, by watching historical documentaries or C-SPAN, or reading publicly-available policy documents. Did you know the text and audio transcripts of all bills since 1993 are available online? You don’t need to be a Constitutional scholar to educate yourself on the issues that matter to you.

5. Attend a free political science webinar

Finally, explore eight up-to-the-minute political science webinars for both you and your students. They’re all free!

Degrees Digital Magazine | Issue 9

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