Developing Civic-Minded Students

Jackie Pisani
With the upcoming midterm elections right around the corner, Upper School history teacher, Katie McCarthy wanted to educate the KO students about the political process. “People are more engaged during a presidential election, and the midterm elections tend not to be as energizing. I wanted to start a conversation about a basic understanding of this election,” she said.

At the recent assembly, McCarthy and Sloan Duvall ’21 presented a slide show entitled “Midterm Elections 101: A Short Guide to Everything You Need to Know about the Upcoming Elections” on both the federal and state level. To engage the audience, McCarthy began the presentation with a pop quiz to test the students' knowledge of voter turnout in recent elections. She shared that only 36% of the U.S. voting age population voted in the 2014 midterm election, the lowest number in 70 years and that 56% of ballots were cast in the 2016 presidential election.

She explained that to gain a majority of the 435 House of Representative seats, a party needs 218 votes. Although all 435 seats are up for grabs in November, only 48 seats are considered competitive. For the Senate, Republicans need to gain eight seats for a filibuster-proof majority and the Democrats would need to gain three seats to control the Senate. Although people might consider that their individual vote is insignificant, McCarthy proved how every vote counts: the winner of the Democratic primary for Connecticut House of Representatives District 38 in August 2018 was determined by only an eight-vote margin.

Young people have become more involved in the political process. In the last midterm cycle, only 7,960 Connecticut residents aged 18-25 had registered. As of October 10, the number jumped to 51,659. Duvall shared that any student at KO who is turning 18 before November 6 and who is a citizen living in the state can vote if they are registered. If students are not yet 18, they can canvass, work on a phone bank or post on social media to support a candidate that represents their views. KO’s student government representatives are registering students and new faculty to vote who have met the voting requirements during the lunch period on Tuesdays.

“I want to provide an authentic educational experience where all different perspectives can be heard and one that respects all voices. I don’t want this to be a place where the conversation is shut off but a place to engage with one another,” McCarthy said.

And just to make certain that the students in her class understand the value of voting and the preciousness of our democracy, McCarthy gave each of her students a pocket-size version of the Constitution of the United States with a handwritten note, “Always know and stand up for your rights.”
 
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Located in West Hartford, CT just steps from Blue Back Square, Kingswood Oxford is a private school inspiring co-ed day students in grades 6-12 with a college preparatory curriculum. Empowered students become clear confident communicators, resourceful problem-solvers, and ethical leaders. KO: where unlimited potential meets endless opportunities.
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