Your Turn: Federal Way schools can develop politically-savvy youth

By Angela Griffin, Federal Way community member

My son’s fourth-grade classroom at Brigadoon Elementary School recently visited the state capitol in Olympia.

The students had the opportunity to meet Rep. Skip Priest and State Sen. Tracey Eide, sit in on a Senate hearing, and tour the Governor’s Mansion. That evening, my son sat down and wrote his teacher a thank you card (without my usual prompting), stating “You are the greatest teacher because you taught me how a bill becomes a law.”

Busloads of elementary and secondary grade students showed up for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s visit to Seattle.

As I stood in a line that wound for at least a quarter of a mile to Key Arena, it was amazing to hear the conversations of youth proclaiming “the event was historical” and expressing their excitement “to be a part of change in American government.”

With all of the elections and debates happening in our local and national government, now is the perfect time to ensure our youth are politically savvy.

Our public school system should be nurturing the skills and knowledge of democratic citizenship in our youth. In the classroom, children can gain the knowledge crucial to becoming citizens that make informed and rational decisions affecting the course of our local and national political future.

A recent article from the National Education Association states: “Education for democracy means more than civics courses on the three branches of government.

To become effective democratic citizens, students need to master the skills and habits of democratic deliberation. They must learn to respect different points of view — and how to understand, communicate and resolve their disagreements with others.”

Hopefully, the Federal Way School District will adopt an elementary level social studies curriculum, in the near future, that will potentially give our youth a foundation in our political system.

In the meantime, please send a little thank you note to the many teachers who make an effort to squeeze this subject into days packed with the rigors of math, reading and WASL prep, often using their personal resources.

Angela Griffin is the executive director of the Federal Way Norman Center YMCA: agriffin@seattleymca.org.

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