Happy 15th Birthday, Student Vote

October 2nd, 2018 by CIVIX

15 years ago today, a very small and very young team of naive and hopeful 25-year-olds managed the first set of Student Vote results to ever roll in from 825 schools throughout Ontario.

The little team couldn’t see at the time how big and successful that first Student Vote was.

I’m not even sure if we should be celebrating today. The world seems like a much rougher place, democracy seems more under threat and, while voter turnout has risen, it is still relatively low compared to where it could be.

But I can smile when I look at where Student Vote has gotten to.

I bumped into a teacher over the summer who told me that all the schools they have taught at over the last decade now permanently expect Student Vote to occur during an election. The teacher said that the program has changed the way teachers teach elections, and built a habit into the school system around using elections as teachable moments to build the skills of citizenship within kids. This isn’t the only teacher to share this with us — we hear this all the time.

As we approach next year’s federal election, in many jurisdictions across Canada, Student Vote is coordinated in as many as 60% of all schools. In last week’s New Brunswick provincial election, 65% of schools registered to take part in Student Vote.

But it still feels to me like the best is yet to come for the Student Vote program.

Disinformation has risen quickly to be one of the most significant threats to democracies around the world. And within the suite of responses being considered by governments, civic education and digital literacy remain a consistent proposition at the top of the list of reports and recommendations from the Public Policy Forum, to CSEC and even the UN.

The thing is, you can’t substantially educate people about disinformation and ‘fake news’ by running a fake news PR campaign on Facebook, or ads on radio and TV. The reality is that verification skills and habits of informed citizenship need to be taught and developed through practice.

We already have the social infrastructure that democracies need so badly to battle against the threat of disinformation right here in Canada. It’s called Student Vote.

Over the next year, the Student Vote program may turn into the best defense that Canada has against disinformation, with an on-the-ground reach that extends classroom to classroom, school to school, in all 338 electoral districts across the country, and literally, 8,000 communities from coast to coast to coast.

If you have an extra second today, please wish this little experiential learning program a Happy Birthday. It deserves it.

If you were able, we would ask that you consider making a donation to CIVIX to ensure the growth of Student Vote, and our other civic education projects: https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/civix/

Happy Birthday, Student Vote.

Taylor

Taylor Gunn
President & CEO
CIVIX

Posted in English, News, Student Vote |

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