Photo: Bigstock/ SeventyFour

Demo of democracy 

How educating kids at a young age can change the future

By Fawn Logan-Young

Democracy: it’s probably not a word you would often associate with children. But maybe it should be. 

Democracy is the idea that power is within the people. It’s how our society is able to govern, depending on the collective will and respect of the people. Without the participation of members within society, democracy dies. 

The two main principles of democracy are equality, where everyone should have the same access to opportunities and respect, and individual autonomy, meaning we should have the right to do as we please with our lives, so long as we don’t harm others.

Democracy has long been debated, yet it is still the system that has shaped Canada and a large portion of the industrialized world today. According to Our World Data (ourworldindata.org/less-democratic), and other scholars and research hubs, democracy is in decline worldwide. 

So, what does democracy have to do with your child? 

Regardless of its decline, I believe we as role models — parents, guardians, teachers, neighbours, etc. — can use the fundamentals of democracy to teach children how to grow up to be active and engaged in their communities. 

Eventually, these practices turn into actions, like voting and the promotion of good citizenship. This can instil awareness of their surroundings, the environment and the impact their actions have on others, especially the most vulnerable in our communities. 

Lessons of equality can be applied to kids’ lives in many ways, like teaching children how to share their snacks, or limiting their time on the swings when others are waiting. 

It can go even deeper by introducing equity. Unlike equality, equity relies on evaluating fairness, more so than giving everyone equivalent access to resources. For example, you are hiking with two children who have the same sized feet. One steps in a puddle and becomes soaked, while the other stays completely dry. You only have one spare pair of shoes that will fit, so realistically you would give that pair to the wet child. It would not do either child any good to give them both one shoe each. 

Individual autonomy for children can be tricky, but there is a way. Although they may not have much choice about eating their greens or going to summer camp, there are still numerous way children can gain autonomy, which includes freedom of thought and expression. For example, if your child is telling you their feelings are hurt, give them the space to express themselves.

As Nelson Mandela once said, “An educated, enlightened and informed population is one of the surest ways of promoting the health of a democracy.” Now, for the sake of the next generation, let’s get to work.

Quick ways to teach kids about democracy

• Look for books at your local library on historical figures who have exercised their rights with respect to democratic practices.

• The next time you vote, bring your child and explain the process. Depending on their age, tell them why you support the candidate you chose. 

• Encourage your child to ask questions and speak up if they don’t agree. The best way to be an ambassador of democracy to your child is to encourage open dialogue. Teach them to ask adults questions in a respectful manner. Receiving that respect back is fundamental for them to understand how democracy should function; growing past our differences make us stronger as a collective. 

• Reach out to local political representatives. Email them a concern or simply say hello. Show your children how to access politicians and educate them that they are the people within government who can create levels of change. Meeting a politician may be a way for your child to materialize the inner workings of our democratic system. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *