Talking About the Election in Your Classrooms

Posted by Campus Election Engagement Project on October 24, 2016


With the 2016 elections fast approaching, there may be nothing more important that you can do than facilitate classroom conversations that encourage student electoral participation. Whatever else students do, they all take classes. Whatever they study, classroom conversations can play a key role in involving them. You may hesitate for fear of politicizing your courses, or because you’re unsure how to lead the conversation. But if you approach it right, you can serve learning and critical thought, while encouraging students to participate as engaged citizens. So here are some reasons why these conversations matter so much, and some suggestions on conducting them.

In a year where young voters in general strongly mistrust both leading presidential candidates and may be considering not voting, direct conversations become more important than ever. Classroom conversations that you facilitate can be critical in helping them think through reasons for participation. They’re opportunities to stress that students can participate even with mixed feelings or outright negative feelings, and that elections aren’t about abstract purity, but about taking responsibility for who is elected in their name. You can also emphasize that their votes can in fact determine the outcome, as student votes have in previous close elections, whether national, statewide, or local. These conversations are also, of course, opportunities to stimulate critical thinking about which candidates best align with their values and who they want to support—both at the presidential level and down ballot.

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