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SPLC, Rock the Vote launch voter education class

The SPLC and Rock the Vote – a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to building the political power of young people – today launched a class designed to teach high school students the importance of voting.

Democracy Class is a high school curriculum on the history and significance of voting that will be taught in over 2,000 schools across the country this week. The class will culminate with registering and pre-registering students to vote.

“When you merge the identities of ‘student’ and ‘voter,’ you have a recipe for transformative change,” said Maureen Costello, director of Teaching Tolerance, an anti-bias education project of the SPLC. “Young people have always led the way to a more democratic and more inclusive future, and this moment is no different. Our hope is that Democracy Class will supplement the activism we are seeing from students across the country, and specifically that students will find a way to channel their passion by voting in November and in every election thereafter. We have to, and we will, challenge hate and extremism with more education and more civic engagement.”

Rock the Vote partnered with Teaching Tolerance to update and expand the Democracy Class curriculum, which was originally created in 2010. Rock the Vote is also working with the SPLC to mobilize Teaching Tolerance’s network of more than 400,000 teachers.

The new curriculum includes additional lessons that cover the subjects of modern-day voting rights, how local elections relate to issues impacting the communities where young people live, and the importance of civic participation.

“It's our collective responsibility to provide young people with the civics education they need and deserve to actively participate in our democracy,” said Carolyn DeWitt, president and executive director of Rock the Vote. “Rock the Vote is thrilled to be launching Democracy Class, because that’s exactly what it does. With the support of more than 100 partners and school districts, we are meeting students where they are, and will ultimately engage hundreds of thousands of students in our democracy this election cycle and beyond. Democracy Class is just the beginning, as we work to create a movement of directly engaging youth in civic education.”

The first day of Democracy Class today coincides with Constitution Day – a federal observance that commemorates the formation and signing of the U.S. Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787. Constitution Day also recognizes people who have become U.S. citizens either by birth or by naturalization.

Just weeks ahead of the midterm elections, Democracy Class will culminate on National Voter Registration Day, a national holiday celebrating America’s democracy – on Tuesday, Sept. 25.

Throughout the country, teachers are reporting that students are more engaged than ever. Through their protests, marches and walkouts, students have shown they are ready and excited to get involved in the democratic process, and to shape the future of the U.S. democracy.

However, voter participation among young people is historically the lowest of any age group. The most common reason that young people don’t register or vote is that they don’t know how, according to Rock the Vote and the SPLC.

The goal of Democracy Class is to change that, by providing students with the knowledge to become active participants in elections and in the democratic process.

Over 100 organizations and school districts, including the Los Angeles Unified School District and the School District of Philadelphia, are integrating Democracy Class into their classrooms this week.