Our Democracy Un-Spun! #2 - Beyond the Ballot Box

What does it mean to you to be an American citizen?

What do you value most in our Democracy?

What issues are critical to you in the 2012 election?

If you want your views to count, you need to get involved and vote! Do you know who votes? Young people have a whole lot at stake, but typically those over 50 (about 70%) turn out in much greater numbers than those between 18-30 (about 50%). (Data from the Current Population Survey, of the U.S. Census Bureau)

You have to turn 18 by November 6th in order to vote, but even if you don't, that doesn’t mean you can’t participate.

1. Get informed, and then share what you are learning – even young kids can make a difference! You have a lot on the line in this election: you will inherit the world, the nation, and the democracy that we leave to you. Kids of all ages can learn about the election process at Election 2012 from Scholastic Magazine, and about voting at Kids Voting USA. You can learn about many controversial issues at ProCon.org. The 2012 Presidential Election information at ProCon.org includes positions of President Obama, Governor Romney, Senator Ron Paul, and some third party candidates.

2. Think critically about what you see and hear on these issues. Whether watching the ads or conventions on TV, or talking with a friend, informed citizens need to recognize the difference between a fact and an opinion. (Definitions are from the Oxford English Dictionary database.) Is there media bias involved? Are they showing just one point of view? Maybe what you're hearing is really more like propaganda, or even an outright hoax! Remember the Balloon Boy hoax that seemed so real just a couple years ago? Is the ad you're watching actually twisting information around to persuade you in spite of the facts? Think about what you're seeing, and about all that can be suggested, even with just a single image. We need to be aware when someone is trying to persuade us to believe or do something, and whether they have our best interests, or theirs, at heart.

For those who want to go deeper, Points of View is a great library database providing essays on multiple sides of controversial issues. It is available immediately on any DPL computer, or free from home with your library card. Here's an example of drilling for oil in the Arctic. You're seeing an overview, with links to pro and con essays, articles, questions to think about, maps, pictures, and a whole lot more! It's a go to resource for students, as well as anyone who wants to understand a challenging issue. Click the 'Home' link in the upper left corner and explore Points of View for yourself.

Keep in mind that Points of View is presenting arguments on various issues. For in-depth reviews on some 250 topics, check out CQ Researcher. Weekly reports have been researched thoroughly, cite their source materials, and credit their authors. Here is an example report on Farm Policy and whether it promotes unhealthy eating. The Farm Bill is up for renewal in 2012 and this links to Senate version. The House of Representatives has yet to act, so this is a hot topic right now.

Bottom line, be skeptical of what you hear and see in any sort of advertising or reporting. Look for nonpartisan sites that cite the sources of their information and tell you who their experts are. And be armed and ready with questions of your own, such as: "According to who?"

3. Mark your calendar - Make a point to tune in to the conventions and the upcoming debates. Television coverage will be limited for the conventions, but much more will be streamed online. Check out C-SPAN Campaign 2012, ABC, CBS, and NBC.

Convention dates:
       o Republicans - Tampa, Florida  August 27-30
       o Democrats  - Charlotte, South Carolina  September 4-6

Be registered to vote by October 9th for the Colorado election.

Presidential Debates are:
       1.  Wednesday, October 3  -  University of Denver, Denver, Colorado
       2.  Tuesday, October 16   -  Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York    (town meeting format)
       3.  Monday, October 22   -  Lynn University, Boca Raton, Florida

Vice Presidential debate
            Thursday, October 11  -  Centre College, Danville, Kentucky

Next time we’ll show you some great places for quickly Checking the Facts...

Written by Elaine on August 23, 2012

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