Young Voices is a 150-page e-resource that aims to redesign American civics education. Throughout its discussion of essential civics information, the resource 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 resource also covers the formation of a political identity, the impact of technology on politics, bias in news and reporting, voter registration, and stories of young people taking political action, all of which are absent from many of today’s leading civics curricula.
Overall, the resource centers on student narratives to inspire students while also providing them with the information necessary to navigate today’s increasingly complicated political landscape.
Our pitch to you: A sixth grader without previous exposure to politics is probably going to be more interested in reading about how a 16-year-old worked with a lawmaker to change a policy in her community than in memorizing every amendment to the Constitution.
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 resource should be, at its core, a discussion-based course. Tests and examinations are important for assessing students’ knowledge of government structure and voting procedures. 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 young people to vote? Why or why not?”, frequently appear in the resource. 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 in the summer of 2017. James decided to create the resource after seeing the low youth voter rates in the 2016 Presidential Election and other elections before it. He believed altering civics courses in a way that represents young people in the material presented would be the best way to inspire the next generation to vote.