Families, communities, states, and nations are strengthened when we teach civics to the rising generation. Parents, leaders, and teachers must show children and youth the importance of becoming educated about politics and being informed voters. The rising generation will not understand the importance of citizenship and voting if they are not taught.
An interesting article by Michael Carey, formerly of the Anchorage Daily News, was published on September 6, 2012. The article was entitled "Citizenship and voting must be ingrained from family tradition." Carey was concerned about the low turnout of voters in a recent municipal election. He was curious about how voters are "different than their non-voting neighbors. Why do they go to the polls when those around them stay home?"
Carey came to the following conclusion: "If there is an explanation of why people vote, it must begin with this: Voting is learned behavior. Those who vote are not only taught how to vote but why voting matters.
"Citizens are not born, they are made. And it is ridiculous to expect people who are residents of a community but unwilling or unable to assume the responsibilities of citizenship to wake up [on] election day and shout `I'm gonna vote!' …
"I suspect voters learn to vote from parents who either talk to them about voting or serve as example. Some parents have their children accompany them to the polling place and bring them into the voting booth. Others - and I have seen this - are politically active and have their children dropping campaign fliers on doorsteps from the time the kids are old enough to walk a neighborhood without heavy supervision….
"There are people right now with fatal illnesses determined to live long enough to vote in the presidential election. Someone taught them the importance of even-numbered years, and although they may die in an even-numbered year, they will cast their ballot one last time because, in sickness and in health, they are voters."
One of my clearest memories of my childhood and youth is of my parents going to the polls to vote. I remember few political discussions in our home, but I do remember my parents comparing their votes - and knowing they had voted differently. My husband's parents were also "super voters" who voted in every election.
I remember taking my little children with me to the polling place and gathering several of them into the booth with me as I cast my vote. I remember feeling some frustration with trying to concentrate on the ballot while keeping my children under control. I was fulfilling my civic duty, but now I know that I was also teaching an important lesson to my children. My children are now adults with families of their own, but they take the time to study the issues of the day and to go to the polls to cast their votes.
Carey's article gave me a sense of relief because I knew that I had succeeded as a parent in this one area. I know that families, communities, states, and nations are stronger when the rising generation understands the importance of civics.