Young Voices is a 150-page E-Textbook that aims to provide a civics education to American youth. Throughout its discussion of essential civics information, the book focuses heavily on student narratives in an effort to better engage readers with the material. In addition to covering the basics of a classic civics curriculum, the book also covers the formation of a political identity, the impact of technology on politics, bias in news and reporting, and stories of young people taking political action, all of which are absent from many of today’s leading civics curriculums.
Overall, the book centers on student narratives to inspire students and, ultimately, hopes to inspire, not bore, its users while also providing them with the information necessary to navigate today’s increasingly complicated political landscape.
Young Voices is the result of almost 60 interviews with young people from across the United States who are deeply politically involved either in their community or on the national level.
These interviews guide lessons and are unquestionably the most essential aspect of Young Voices.
A course that employs this textbook should be, at its core, a discussion-based course. Tests and examinations are important for assessing students’ knowledge of government structure and voting procedure, but the ideas of this course extend far beyond those two concepts. Discussion questions, such as “What would you change about the structure of American government, if anything?” and “Is it important for youth to vote? Why or why not?”, frequently appear in the textbook, and teachers should gather the class to discuss these questions in detail.
In general, discussions are most successful when they are dominated by student, rather than teacher, voices. Educators should focus on ensuring that the discussion remains focused on the topic at hand, that the discussion continues whenever it comes to a halt, and that all students in the class have the opportunity to share their opinions.
If you would like to use Young Voices in your classroom, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like to view sample lessons, please visit the Sample Lessons page of this website.
James Wellemeyer wrote Young Voices during the summer before his senior year of high school at The Lawrenceville School with funding from the Welles Grant Award, a stipend given annually to students wishing to pursue a summer project. James would like to thank the Welles Grant program and The Lawrenceville School for providing funding for the project.
James decided to create the textbook after seeing the low youth voter rates in the 2016 Presidential Election and other elections before it. He saw a lack of knowledge about and interest in the American political system as the most significant causes of these low voter rates and believed that altering civics courses to focus more heavily on youth themselves might inspire the next generation of young people to become more politically active.