Why does Newfoundland and Labrador have such a poor voter turnout, particularly among young people? Could it have something to do with the way we educate our students? In this December 2015 Letter to the Telegram we summarize why we feel so strongly that there is a need to revise the NL high school social studies curriculum.
Democracy Alert is in the process of developing a "Question of the Day" package that could be used in a variety of ways to pique students' interest on issues that are not currently covered in the curriculum.
Meeting with government
Our group has met several times over the last year and a half (2014/2015) with either the Deputy Minister or personnel in the Department of Education. Conversation has focused on a possible connection between the falling youth voter (only 29.5% of young Newfoundlanders and Labradorians under 25 voted in the 2011 federal election) and the removal (almost 20 years ago) of courses like Democracy, World Problems, Global Issues, etc. from the social studies curriculum. We are particularly concerned that these courses were not replaced by courses that promoted discussion and debate around societal and citizenship issues. Instead, the focus over the last two decades, has been, in our opinion, on educating students to be good workers and good consumers.
We have suggested that students graduating from high school should be required to take
Meeting with the English School Board and the NLTA
In 2015 we met with both the NLTA executive and senior management at the English School Board. We argued for two things: First, there is a need to alert educators, both principals and teachers about youth disinterest in democracy. Is it possible, for example, that even young teachers do not see the need or importance of voting? Secondly, are there ways to infuse school culture with democratic engagement outside of curriculum? Democracy Alert does not believe that the responsibility for conveying democratic values and process in the school should fall entirely on the backs of social studies teachers. That's not fair.