Say my name?

 Can you name them? (Photo credit Meredith Miller)

Can you name them? (Photo credit Meredith Miller)

Think fast: Who were the members of Destiny’s Child in 2000?!

Beyoncé… Kelly… and Michelle? Nope! It’s Beyoncé Knowles, Kelly Rowland, Michelle Williams and Farrah Franklin (thank you Wikipedia).

Like political leaders, the members of the once notorious Destiny’s Child has changed and can be hard to keep track. It's the same struggle 18-24 year olds are facing when they vote for the 1st time in their life this month.

Think fast! Who are the four political party leaders?!

Justin Trudeau, Elizabeth May, Thomas Mulcair, and Stephen Harper!

This is probably not the response of most 18-24 year old Canadians and it’s not that surprising because no one really teaches them about politics.

This orientation week, the University of Guelph organized a Political Ice Cream event. We had 4 flavours in the colours of the political parties and the students had to name the leaders to get a scoop. Easy peasy, right?

Wrong! In the 2 hours that we scooped ice cream, over 200 students came thru and while everyone could name one leader – aka Beyoncé - less than 10% of the students were able to name all four.

While some may find this worrying and think young people need to learn more about politics, we would agree but also point the finger at the educational system that currently does a bad job of teaching political literacy to future voters.

In conversation with his high school teacher, Dustin Garron – University of Ottawa student* – found that Civics, a grade 10 course taught in high schools in Ontario, is the teacher’s most failed course. According to the curriculum, the half-credit course is suppose to “enable students to develop their understanding of what it means to be a responsible citizen and to explore various elements of the citizenship framework.”

Yet, lack of political knowledge is commonly cited by youth as one of the top reasons for not voting. So clearly, youth are not pickin’ up what Civics is puttin’ down…

So this election, I’d like to ask everyone to put down their pitchforks and their hunt for the ‘apathetic’ youth, and instead extend a hand to help. By labeling young people as ‘apathetic’ we are pushing them away from their democratic right to exercise their vote.

So this election season, let’s not forget what we were like when we were 18-24 years old and cut these young folks some slack. Commit to speaking with a first time voter about the process and the politics instead and we will all be better for it.


Blog written by Yvonne Su with help from contributor Dustin Garron. 

*Dustin currently sits on the Youth Council of the Mental Health Commission of Canada and is an amazing public speaker on youth mental health.