Democracy in Action

Written By: Rachel Strong
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There is still over a year until the general election, but the election cycle has been in full swing for almost a year now. With such a long election season, it's easy to get overloaded and it's so easy to just fast forward through the boring election stuff during the evening news.

But-while this is said about every election-this is arguably the most important presidential election to date. With the state of the world currently-and hints of an upcoming war with Iran-the next leader of the country will have a lot on his (or her) plate from the beginning.

Voter turnout has been dropping for decades, and those complaining most are usually those who did nothing to remedy the situation. As parents, it's our job to raise conscientious citizens, and to do our part in making this a country we can be proud to hand down to our children. There are a number of ways we can foster a love of democracy in our children, especially during this prolonged election season.

First, if you haven't already, start watching the debates with your children. The debates are boring even for most adults, so here are a few things to make it more interesting. Make up a "drinking" type game with certain catch phrases. For example, every time Iraq, terrorism, taxes, the economy, God, abortion, or another hot button issue is mentioned, your child can grab a Skittle or take a drink of juice or water (it's a good way to get hydrated). Have your child keep a tally and so you can compare Democrats and Republicans and teach your child the differences between the two parties. Watch as many debates as you can-including those of the opposite party.

When watching debates of the opposite party-shut up and listen! You may learn something yourself-and you will allow your child to come up with his or her own political views.

After the debates, discuss the answers given as a family. Have your child explain a candidate's position. Ask your student what he or she thinks about a certain issue (this is also a good way to get to know your child). Don't debate your child to convince them your position is right (unless it may be a moral values issue), but instead have your student explain and defend his or her position.

If your student has questions, answer them-without spin if possible.

Look into third, fourth, or fifth party candidates to see where they stand on issues. Check out http://www.vajoe.com/candidate_calculator.html. This special calculator will let you know exactly which mainline candidate best matches your own personal values on the issues.

As the election looms closer, have your student read the Voters Guide and explain candidate positions and the pros and cons of the ballot initiatives.

On November 4, 2008 take your child voting with you. They'll go-it's a school day. Take a few hours and spend some time with you child doing what makes us Americans. When you're at the polls (or when you vote by mail at home) see if you can get a sample ballot for your child to practice voting (or copy the ballot to mail in). Your child's vote won't count, but it might be fun for your student.

Encouraging a love of democracy will not only instill in your student a sense of civic duty-if enough of us teach our children to make informed decisions we will leave this country a better place. The right to free speech is wonderful (and exercised daily), but the right to vote is sacred.

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