- Teacher Resource: Voting Proposals
- Handout A: Testing Assumptions
- Handout B: Project Parameters and Directions
- Handout C: Indicators of Participation in Public Life
- Handout D: Capstone Project Website Outline
- Handout E: Politics and the Women of the ___________ Family
- Handout F: Sample Website/Award Press Releases
- Begin with the general question: “To what extent is voting important?” and allow some brief discussion.
- Let students know that according to a 2018 Pew Research Center survey, “Elections in the U.S.: Priorities and Performance,” 70% of Americans say voting in presidential elections is very important. It is in presidential election years that we generally have the highest level of voter participation.
- Ask the class: Is it surprising, then, that in the average presidential election year, almost half of eligible voters do not cast a ballot? Why is that? You might point out that, for elections on strictly local issues and races, it is not unusual to have a voter turnout of less than 10% of eligible voters.
- After some discussion, write on the board: “Civic Virtue: A set of actions and habits necessary for safe, effective, and mutually beneficial participation in a society.” After a brief explanation of that definition, ask: “Is voting in that set of actions and habits that make up for civic virtue? Another way of asking the question might be, is voting a right or responsibility? Do you lack civic virtue if you do not vote?”
- Ask the class for their initial responses to these questions and allow some discussion.
- Distribute Handout A: Testing Assumptions. Have students respond individually to each statement set. Then work with a partner to discuss their answers. Discuss any of the choices that especially interested your students.
- If needed, rewrite the definition of civic virtue on the board: “A set of actions and habits necessary for safe, effective, and mutually beneficial participation in a society”
- Write the phrase “participation in society” on the board, and challenge your students to name as many “indicators” of this phrase as they can.
- In other words, what behaviors constitute participation in public life, and would be expected to increase if more people practiced civic virtue?
- Keep a list on the board, and as a class identify 5 or 6 that you believe are the strongest. In order to stay focused on responsibilities of citizenship, be sure at least half of your list includes indicators that do not involve government. For example:
- Starting an organization to serve the needy in your area (voluntary)
- Working for organizations that help the poor (voluntary)
- Volunteering at a local private school (voluntary)
- Keeping up your home and property (voluntary)
- Reading the news and staying informed (voluntary)
- Organizing neighborhood clean-ups (voluntary)
- Running and serving on neighborhood watch (voluntary)
- Writing letters to the editor or opinion pieces on community/national issues (voluntary)
- Attending religious services, serving on church council (voluntary)
- Holding regular responsibility in a position of service in a religious or charitable organization (voluntary)
- Membership in civic organizations (voluntary)
- Voting (government)
- Speaking at local town meetings (government)
- Speaking at school board meetings (government)
- Running for public office (government)
- Volunteering or fundraising for a campaign (government)
- Reporting crimes (government)
- Participating in protests calling for laws to be passed or repealed(government)
- Writing to representatives (government)
Note: it is up to you whether you consider posting on social media to be a form of participation. At the very
least, encourage students to question whether such an activity constitutes involvement in public life.
- Explain that you will now consider some ideas related to voting that may or may not be good ideas, but that have been proposed as ways that voting might either strengthen the connection between voting and civic virtue, or help voting become a more effective means for approving/disapproving referendums or selecting officials.
- Allow students to choose a partner and give each pair a slip from Teacher Resource: Voting Proposals. Give students 10 minutes to examine the proposal and prepare a reasonable and eloquent persuasive speech in favor of it. (Assure them that this is just an exercise and they are not required to agree personally with the proposal.)
- After ten minutes, have students who discussed the same proposal assemble into groups of 4-6. They should consult for five minutes or so on their best arguments in favor of the proposal they considered.
- Have a spokesperson for each proposal present it to the class, while the rest of the class takes notes on the key points of the proposal and their initial “yea” or “nay” vote for it. To conclude, you could:
- take a secret ballot vote on whether to accept each proposal
- take a voice or show of hands vote on whether to accept each proposal
- ask students which 3 they would vote for (if any)
- Introduce the Capstone Project. This project provides students with the opportunity to apply and showcase what they learned throughout their study of women’s suffrage in the U.S. After examining their assumptions about voting and citizenship—does voting itself constitute responsible citizenship? Does the right to vote lead to higher levels of participation in public life?—they will investigate these questions and analyze their results. See Appendix D: For Further Reading to identify additional source ideas.
- Finally, they will plan, create, and market a website or educational event that increases awareness of the history of women in politics, the ways women have influenced local and national politics, and the importance of participation in public life including exercising the right to vote.
- Divide the class into groups of six and distribute Handout B: Project Parameters and Directions. Go over the directions, making it plain that each student in the group has a clear responsibility (see the suggested grading rubric for guidance)
- If students have not completed all of the lessons in Votes for Women: The Story of the Nineteenth Amendment, it would be helpful to have them read the background essays for all lessons.
- If your class will be working on Capstone Project as you progress through the curriculum, allow one class period per lesson for students to complete each sub-page.
- If you are presenting this Capstone Project as a stand-alone lesson without presenting the lessons that come before it, allow students one week of class time to complete their projects.
- During this time they should have access to the readings, appropriate handouts from all the lessons, and/or other appropriate texts.
- You may also wish to allow students to have Internet or library access to do additional research.
- You could also create one website as a class, assigning a single page/section to each group.
- If web access is unavailable or impractical, students’ work can be printed on 17 x 11 paper to make a booklet. The homepage can be turned into a table of contents and all the sub-pages can be turned into spreads (facing pages in the booklet when it is open). Booklets can be printed in color and delivered to all the locations where voter registration is carried out.
- Encourage students to promote their upcoming website or alternative event using social media and other methods.
- Be sure to check your school guidelines, including any required or preferred applications, for using and building websites. In the absence of required or preferred apps for your school, you might consider some of these highly-rated (as of 2019) website-building tools: Squarespace, Weebly, Wix, Adobe Spark, Google Sites, WordPress.com.
- Consider launching your website(s) around the centennial (or anniversary) of the adoption of the Nineteenth Amendment (August 26, 2020) with a community event in which you honor a member of your local community as a role model for civic virtue.
- Alternative projects might include:
- Hosting a history fair (like a science fair)
- Planning a community education night with booths/voter registration tables. Note: Be sure to check your state’s laws regarding requirements for voter registrars, and/or invite your local official who supervises voter registration for your community.
- Developing lessons/activities and teaching them at a nearby elementary school, etc.
- Developing an online digital portfolio with accompanying social media initiative to publicize it.
Discuss with students whether any of the proposals they considered deepened or changed their thinking on the question of whether voting is a right, a responsibility, or both. Is there ever a duty not to vote? Explain.,