Students get a jump-start on election process 

click to enlarge Taking your kids to the polls on Election Day can help unscramble the complexities of politics and will help them learn an important responsibility of being a citizen. - JIM R. BOUNDS/2008 AP FILE PHOTO
  • Jim R. Bounds/2008 AP file photo
  • Taking your kids to the polls on Election Day can help unscramble the complexities of politics and will help them learn an important responsibility of being a citizen.

It's voting day.

There are a lot of important issues on the ballot and I would be remiss if I didn't remind you that there is one particularly relevant for schools -- Proposition C.

This proposition will renew funding for the Public Education Enrichment Fund and the Children's Fund without increasing property taxes. Prop. C will give our children access to arts, sports and counseling services as well as after-school and summer programs.

But perhaps, like some of our students, you have already voted.

It's true -- some of them aren't the legal age to vote -- but they learned the issues, debated the pros and cons of the propositions, and filled out a mock ballot. Some of their classmates, already 18, actually did register to vote and filled out their ballots for real.

Students lead the discussions

In one high school American government class, students were assigned ballot propositions weeks ago and worked in teams to research everything related to the issue, including how ads for and against given propositions may or may not actually tell the whole story.

They presented their findings to their classmates.

In another high school, students took special interest in topics such as drug testing for doctors and the City College of San Francisco board of trustees race. Their teacher told me that for her students, these conversations weren't just theoretical. They were talking about things that affect their lives right now.

And one evening last month, over a hundred students showed up at a political forum to hear from candidates and ask questions.

For an election that is expecting a low voter turnout, I'm pretty impressed by these kids -- especially the ones that don't even get to vote yet. They are paying attention to an important part of being citizens in this country.

You can teach civics today, too

If you haven't voted yet, get up, get your kids and go to your polling place. You'll give them a close-up lesson in how voting works.

You can make the moment simply about what a ballot looks like and how it gets filled out. You can remind them that the ballot is not like a test and you don't have to answer every question. You can show the names for the people running for office and how everybody gets to choose. On the way, you can talk about issues important to your family.

As parents and teachers, it is important to model a lifelong habit that goes hand in hand with the privileges and responsibilities of being a citizen.

Several of our schools host polling places and I love that our students can catch a glimpse of this important democratic process.

Oh, and yeah, I still love to get the "I voted" sticker.

Richard A. Carranza is the superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District.

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