Let’s talk about voting.
Yesterday, we asked our 65,000 Facebook followers if they had held mock elections in their schools. We heard from one lone voice that reported her middle school had 100 percent turnout.
I hope that teachers were just too busy – counting mock election ballots, writing lessons, preparing for November tests or responding to Hurricane Sandy – to spend time telling us about how their schools carried out our profound obligation to teach young people about this essential ritual of democracy.
But a nagging doubt lingers. Over the last few months we’ve heard from too many educators telling us that they dared not talk about the election. Along with a raft of other topics like gay marriage, abortion and evolution, this year’s presidential contest had become radioactive.
Today, the election is over. Let’s talk with our students about voting instead.
Talk with them about why people across the country stood in line for hours to cast a ballot.
Tell them about the thousands of citizens displaced by Hurricane Sandy who made the effort to vote, often in dark and unheated tents.
Share what people had to say about voting.
Show them pictures of voters leaving the polls with “I voted” stickers on their lapels and a look of pride on their faces.
And read to them Walt Whitman’s Election Day, November, 1884
If I should need to name, O Western World, your powerfulest scene and show,
'Twould not be you, Niagara—nor you, ye limitless prairies—nor your huge rifts of canyons, Colorado,
Nor you, Yosemite--nor Yellowstone, with all its spasmic geyser-loops ascending to the skies, appearing and disappearing,
Nor Oregon's white cones--nor Huron's belt of mighty lakes—nor Mississippi's stream:
This seething hemisphere's humanity, as now, I'd name—the still small voice vibrating—America's choosing day,
(The heart of it not in the chosen—the act itself the main, the quadrennial choosing,)
The stretch of North and South arous’d-sea-board and inland-Texas to Maine—the Prairie States—Vermont, Virginia, California,
The final ballot-shower from East to West—the paradox and conflict,
The countless snow-flakes falling—(a swordless conflict,
Yet more than all Rome’s wars of old, or modern Napoleon’s:) the peaceful choice of all,
Or good or ill humanity—welcoming the darker odds, the dross:
—Foams and ferments the wine? it serves to purify—while the heart pants, life glows:
These stormy gusts and winds waft precious ships,
Swell’d Washington’s, Jefferson’s, Lincoln’s sails.…
Costello is the director of Teaching Tolerance.