Elections and the Next Generation

15 Dec


Elections should be discussed in the classrooms and debating forums in schools and colleges. They are essential tools to create awareness in a democracy

An exciting electoral week with five States going to the polls, exciting last minute upsets, unseeded players getting a ranking and animated discussions around tables of every sort. This is the kind of fertile ground every educator dreams of, and often does not find. This is when we can show the next generation the various shades of a democracy. And then, as it often happens — disappointment. There were a few teachers who had spoken of these in their classrooms, but I could find no concerted effort to bring in children into the tradition of choice. Even as a future vote-bank, or as a public service, it would have been good to see a platform where children could learn more and participate in the democratic process.

The duties do not start and end with landing up at a booth and voting. It starts with articulating needs and expectations from Government so that a sensible manifesto can be created. Understanding the manifesto, debating it with reason and structure, are easy classroom activities. Voters must work through the issues of trust in the manifesto, candidate and party — these too translate into rich classroom discussions. Politics is often the art of negotiation between completely opposing points of view, and then finding a path forward. As any designer of pedagogical tools would say, this is perfect for a role-play in the classroom, or even a play presented at a school assembly.

What of the regular curriculum, then? If students spend their time here, how would they learn their lessons? Actually, election arithmetic is a fantastic element to engage with the tools of the classroom and understand the real world. Starting from research skills to creating sophisticated statistical infographics, there is much that can be done at each study level. Simple essays, precis writing, comprehension skills and much more that fills the syllabus booklet can be used to discuss civic duties. Democracy does not need to remain relegated to the civics textbooks of a certain year.

One skill that employers seek, and often do not find in the output of our current education system, is coherence — the ability to deliver on a cogent thought. In an election, the objective is to deliver a vote backed up by a clear reasoning process. It is the business of schools to show students how to make reasoned and reasonable choices. And to understand the possible consequences of such choices. An election is a great opportunity to work on these.

Many schools, and almost all colleges do have internal elections that mimic the process of regional and national elections. If done well, this is probably the best education that can be provided. One of the key characteristics of a mature democracy is to be able to deal with different points of view, and still be able to distinguish between the person and their argument. There are many lessons to be learnt here.

First, an argument is not a fight. All arguments can lead to fights and pulling them back from that line is a skill that needs practice (and some forgiveness, when it crosses the line). Second, the sum total of a person is not just one argument. It is possible for friends to hold entirely opposing points of view, even vote against each other, and still be supportive in other things. Third, it is alright to change one’s mind in the light of better or more information. People evolve, and children and student do this much faster than others — they are in the business of being educated, after all.


This was published in the Pioneer Newspaper on December 12, 2013 and is linked here and



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