By David F. Rooney
Declining voter participation rates, particularly among young Canadians, are fact of political life that almost everyone is familiar with. Young people, the popular wisdom goes, are apathetic, politically ignorant and bored. Consequently, they don’t vote.
Some or even all of that may be true but schools are doing what they can to instil a glimmer of understanding and perhaps even interest in elementary school children through the national Student Vote program. Local schools here in Revelstoke were among the 4,000 schools across Canada that participated in the program, which is offered in conjunction with official federal and provincial elections.
“Student Vote tries to get them early,” says Mountain View Elementary Librarian Natalie MacLeod. “Some students are politically aware. They hear their parents and other adults talking about politics and some even ask their parents questions about politics, too. Others think government is responsible for shopping malls.
“But you know, just going through this process helps them understand a little better.”
She said that students examined real riding maps, examined campaign posters and asked lots of questions. Some of the questions were pretty naive, such as “who’s the best candidate?” Others were more thoughtful, such as “who can do the most for our town?”
Across town at Arrow Heights Elementary School, students there were busy asking similar questions.
“Some aren’t terribly interested but many of them are interested,” said Grade 5/6 teacher Amber Thompson.
Ironically the Student Vote Program has also helped her understand Canadian politics. An immigrant from the United Kingdom she has found the program’s highly detailed parallel election quite helpful to understanding the mechanics of Canadian democracy.
So once the students voted how did the returns shake out? You’ll have check back with The Current on Monday evening to find out!