By Isabelle Christensen
The school system is changing in Canada, but how is it helping prepare students for their future as adults? Are young voters coming into the world more informed about elections and the parties than before?
After speaking with my parents and grandparents, who went to a few different schools throughout B.C., I discovered that they had little to no education about elections or the voting system while they were in high school. Without the coaching of experienced voters, graduating students were sent into the world not knowing what to do or how to form their own voting opinion.
But for the last few elections, this pattern of misinformed young voters has started to change. On the afternoon of Oct. 18, Clearwater Secondary school (CSS), alongside hundreds of schools, took part in the Canada wide Student Vote. The results of the student votes in the past have differed significantly from the results of the real election, but this year, the CSS results were the same as the real results of our riding.
The answer to why may lie in the changing system.
Student Vote is organized by CIVIX, a non-governmental association that engages students from across Canada in a mock election alongside both federal and provincial elections. This program is designed to get the youth involved in Canadian politics while providing students with the skills and experience necessary to make well-informed voting decisions in the future.
In preparation for the Student Vote, two of the junior social studies classes at CSS spent weeks researching and discussing each party, preparing campaigns for the party of their choice and engaging in debates against supporters of opposing parties. The rules of the debate in Mr. Menard’s Grade 9 socials class were simple; focus on the issues.
This restriction of not being able to point out what’s wrong with the other parties challenged the students to find real issues that their party planned to address as opposed to the typical politician debates, which tend to be uninformative. As a result, the debate was educational and civil compared to the real debates.
Using the information shared during the debate, the students were asked to participate in a classroom vote where they pick the party that they thought would create the best future for them. The twist to this classroom election was the student’s vote would count in the real election.
Mr. Menard told his class that whichever party his class would elect would be the party he would cast his ballot for. This prompted the students to think more about what the parties were saying and what they wanted for the future of their country. Although the results for the entire school ended up in a Conservative majority, the result in Mr. Menard’s Grade 9 class, who voted specifically for the best options for their future, ended up in a Liberal minority.
Some of the senior students at the school were willing to share what they wanted in their government and what motivated them to vote for their parties. The recurring theme here is the creation of jobs and the representation of the working class in smaller areas such as Clearwater. This is addressed more prominently by the Conservative party, along with continuing the pipeline project and running a smaller deficit.
What the students look for in a party can be easily reflected in the Conservatives platform, making their winning of the school vote overall unsurprising. With Canfor’s Vavenby mill recently shutting down, the pipeline project, which was a significant part of the Conservative platform, would create a lot of jobs, which is what many of the senior students are more concerned about.
This could be due to the fact that they have seen the struggles older friends, siblings, and parents have gone through in recent years and this may have impacted how the next generation views the world and how they will vote when it comes time.
The Student Vote program is a great way to get students involved in politics while they still have the support of teachers to help provide them with a better understanding of how the system works. It teaches them how to be resourceful and informed voters by engaging them in voting politics early, allowing them to be more confident young voters in the future.
This program, alongside the alterations made to the education system and the efforts of teachers at CSS, has helped push students towards being enlightened voters, voters that consider the long term as well as short, voters that will push for parties that represent all the people of Canada, not just the few. Young students were able to hold a civil and informative debate without hurling mud at opposing parties — more than what can be said for the candidates — but there is still a lot of work to do.
Despite the changes made and the steps taken, many students throughout Canada are misinformed or unaware of a variety of issues and subjects to consider when picking a party, and some will grow up to pick a party simply in hopes that another won’t win.
Continuing with the Student Vote program over time, and having a more flexible curriculum should help graduating students be more confident and educated voters of the future. The evidence of this program helping lies in the results of our school’s preparation and vote. Students were able to recognize the economic situation they are in and vote accordingly, showing that they know how to civilly find information on subjects and issues that are directly linked to their future, preparing them for lives as voting adults in Canada.