Malibu, Santa Monica History Teachers Talk Voting Rights – Patch.com
SANTA MONICA, CA — Santa Monica and Malibu 11th and 12th grade history teachers have been working to educate and register their students to vote.
Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District history teachers have been helping their students understand the importance of voting as national voter registration day is just around the corner, and the California Department of Education’s biannual high school voter education week is coming to a close.
The push includes a small online information sheet, classroom discussion about voting and registration help. Satinder Hawkins, coordinator of American cultures and ethnic studies for the district, made the online resource for teachers who don’t want to make their own. It includes a fun educational video featuring actors from “Hamilton.”
The online educational resource discusses how different groups worked to secure the right to vote throughout American history and links to a website about historic voter suppression under Jim Crow voting laws, as well as to contemporary congressional efforts to expand voting rights.
The document also discusses voter eligibility and instructions for registration.
Registering students to vote was a particularly joyful experience for Hawkins because she is an immigrant and has devoted her life to history education. She shared the resource sheet on Twitter so other parents could participate.
The voter push lined up with the gubernatorial recall election, but Hawkins said she tried to avoid discussing the two together.
“The purpose is not really to politicize it. It’s for students to be given the opportunity to make their own choices,” Hawkins said. “I think that’s an important distinction, because a lot of times, people feel like teachers are sharing their own politics. But as history teachers, what we strive to do is give students the critical thinking tools to make their own decisions. We just want kids to be participants in democracy.”
Hawkins’ experience in the classroom is that students are engaged and curious, she said. She wholeheartedly disagreed with stereotypes that paint teenagers as surly and uninterested.
“In my experience, and I’m sure that the teachers in Santa Monica [and Malibu] would share the same, students are very interested in the world. They’re very curious about how it works, and that to me is one of the most joyful things about being an educator. You get to work with kids who really just want to know: Why is the world the way it is?” Hawkins said. She added: “The vast majority of students are curious and interested and positive and optimistic.”
This is not the district’s last effort to help students engage in democracy, Hawkins said. It will work on future programming with regional and state bodies such as the California State Board of Education and the Santa Monica History Museum.
The California State Board of Education recently created a new state seal, the “State Seal of Civic Engagement,” which will recognize students’ participation in and understanding of democracy, the U.S. and California constitutions and more. State seals appear on students’ diplomas and transcripts, according to the Orange County Department of Education.
Hawkins said the Santa Monica and Malibu district will begin developing the local criteria for the civic engagement seal in October.