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August 31, 2010 > Rock the Vote brings 'pop culture' into high schools

Rock the Vote brings 'pop culture' into high schools

Submitted By Maegan Carberry

As schools get back into full swing, Rock the Vote (RTV) wants every student to have a new favorite subject - Democracy Class. With this new program aimed at high school juniors and seniors, RTV is working with educators, artists, elected officials, and students to reinvigorate our country's democracy by reaching potential voters as they turn 18.

Over the past 30 years, civics education has been systematically cut from public schools, opportunities to learn about politics and government are limited, and programs to register newly eligible high school students are not widespread. As of 2009, only 21 states included civic learning in their state assessment and accountability systems. Democracy Class offers a unique and creative opportunity to connect with high school students, and engage them in discussions about citizenship and elections.

"Turning 18 and becoming eligible to vote is a tremendous rite of passage," said Heather Smith, President of Rock the Vote. "Junior and senior year of high school is the ideal moment to connect with young people, and give them the tools to become life-long voters and participants in our country's democracy."

Through this free and non-partisan class, youth nationwide will learn about the history of voting, the connection between issues they care about and those they elect to office, and their right to vote. The lesson engages students with music and pop culture to start a discussion, and demystifies the voter registration process by walking them through the key steps. The supporting website, www.DemocracyClass.com, offers easy access to election information, ways to get involved in registering voters, interviews with artists and athletes, and materials for teachers and community groups to use in their classrooms. The 45 to 90-minute curriculum is also available to all educators for free download, making Democracy Class available in any classroom or after school program.

Teachers like Barbara Wainer, a social studies department chair in Columbus, Ohio who has brought Democracy Class into her classroom says it's an "excellent way for students to learn that they have a voice in the future if they take the time to vote. They loved reading the rapper's words and hearing the songs that spoke about voting. This program helps to make the students understand that voting is essential to their future."

The most common reason why young people don't register to vote is that they don't know how, and every student deserves to be empowered with this knowledge.

Democracy Class is supported by an impressive and diverse advisory board of public officials, education leaders, and artists, including: The Honorable Debra Bowen, Secretary of State, California; The Honorable Sam Reed, Secretary of State, State of Washington; Steve Barr, Founder and Chair Emeritus, Green Dot Public Schools; and Benji and Joel Madden of the band Good Charlotte. A full list of advisory board members is available on the Democracy Class site.

RTV will be presenting Democracy Class at the national meeting of the National Council for the Social Studies and other educator conferences this fall. The lesson will also be available to Teach for America members on their teacher resource page and will be brought to B'nai B'rith Youth Organization (BBYO) chapters nationwide.

In tandem with its largest midterm voter registration drive ever, Democracy Class is an important part of Rock the Vote's outreach plan in 2010 and beyond, as almost 13,000 young people turn 18 every day. High school students care about the issues that affect them, and Rock the Vote is committed to making sure they have the information and resources they need to participate when they become eligible, and to encourage them to make a lifetime commitment to vote in every election.

For more information, visit www.democracyclass.com or Rock the Vote at www.rockthevote.com

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