Kids Voting is a national, nonpartisan, grassroots educational program collaborating with the Cape Fear Volunteer Center to bring improved civic education to New Hanover County children. Kids Voting teaches school aged children about government, the constitution, registering to vote and other topics related to political engagement. The organization hosts events like the “Preamble Challenge” and observes holidays such as “Constitution Day”, which marks the creation of the US Constitution. The Kids Voting mission is to better educate children on their country’s voter registration process and political process as well as to foster a greater sense of civic duty.
Studies show that, currently, only 26 percent of US citizens can name all three branches of the American government (executive, legislative and judicial). As it stands, most school districts don’t offer a civics class until a student reaches high school, and then it is only for a single semester. In fact, civics education is often treated as a non-essential “add on” subject rather than a necessary course needed to function well in a democracy. As a result, many American youth leave high school severely under educated about their nation’s political functions and their rights as citizens. This eventually leads to millions of adults that are largely uninformed, apathetic and inactive when it comes to civic engagement, such as not showing up for local and mid-term elections or simply not registering to vote at all. The low voter turnout of American elections, including presidential elections, has often been a source of shame for our society as a whole as many other democratic nations have much higher turnouts.
Further study shows that 37 percent of US citizens cannot name any of the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment of the US constitution (freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of assembly and freedom to petition the government for a redress of grievances), This same study showed that only 48 percent could name the freedom of speech, which is the right generally associated with the First Amendment. Such a lack of knowledge of constitutional rights can be extremely disadvantageous. Not knowing one’s rights can certainly lead to those very rights being violated without that citizen’s knowledge. Being unaware of your constitutional rights can leave you greatly handicapped when it comes to fighting injustice or even recognizing it. Being educated on their most basic of civil rights can only help kids as they grow up to be voting citizens in a free, constitutional republic.
Students will benefit greatly from an early civic education. Early civic education and engagement is a great way to ensure that young people grow up with a more in-depth knowledge of their constitutional rights as well as the structure and function of their country’s political system at all levels. Kids Voting hosts events like the Preamble Challenge, which tests kids’ knowledge of the preamble to the US Constitution, held annually on the Constitution Day holiday, September 17th. In addition, kids will be taught the amendments laid out in the constitution, as well as many of the Supreme Court cases that helped shape the document into what it is today. The civic education kids would receive and the engaging activities that Kids Voting host will go a long way in helping young ones grow up with a stronger interest in politics and becoming engaged, well informed voters.