Teaching democracy - demystifying the electoral process

*This post was written by Susan He, a MT student in the Intermediate/Senior stream.

Let me begin by saying, this was one of the most informative and eye-opening workshops I have ever attended. The reason I am making such a big claim is that teaching democracy isn’t an issue teachers and teacher candidates frequently talk about. While students are taught specific subject content in preparation for graduation and post-secondary education, how future Canadians can contribute to the governance of their country has been pushed to the sidelines.

The workshop was structured as roundtables with guest speakers rotating among the discussants. Here’s a recap of the November 29th workshop.

So why teach democracy?

The electoral process is typically taught in the Civics course in gr 10 and keynote June Creelman (Elections Canada) urges for educating young future voters to overcome the challenge that many people (particularly young people) don’t vote. And as teachers, educators have the ability to impact future voters.

Keynote Ali Nason, who teaches history and civics focuses on student contribution to their communities. Her mantra is to start with something closer to home and create the world they want to live in through civic action. Consider multiple perspectives by describing their innate political stance.

A third keynote given by middle school Maria Vamvalis reminds teachers the number of years they spend with students in their formative years, have the ability to nurture the future society their students create. To move away from the “banking model of education” teachers must increase critical thinking.

My impression

Wow this session was informative and new to me. I never took Civics in high school and I find the electoral process complicated to the point I get headaches. I often hear kids expressing their opinions on the US elections more so than Canadian elections. Just this past practicum, I walked into my office the morning after Trump’s win and I could hear the conversations in the hallway and arguments coming from classrooms. If only we got that kind of reaction for Canadian elections…

Teachers are not and do not have the ability to be the only source of knowledge…as I have learned from my practicum and a review of literature. However, teachers should be able to pose questions that have ongoing answers to scaffold learning.