Here’s one way to get your students involved in this election: Have them write and publish their letters to the next president.
The National Writing Project and PBS member station KQED just launched a website, Letters to the Next President 2.0, that will publish thousands of students’ letters on the issues that matter to them this election. The initiative is aimed at students aged 13 to 18 who might not be able to vote but still have opinions about policies being discussed on the campaign trail—and what they hope will be the next president’s priorities.
“Letters to the Next President 2.0 has been developed by educators who understand that civic engagement is valuable in its own right,” said Elyse Eidman-Aadahl, executive director of the National Writing Project, in a statement. “When we give students a platform to speak out on issues, we provide them with a powerful and authentic purpose for learning, writing, and media making.”
Teachers can create accounts on the website and invite their students to register and then submit letters in written or multimedia formats.
For instance, one letter includes a video of the student interviewing her mother about her grandmother’s immigration story—and then asks the next president what his or her stance on immigration is. “I hope that listening to this story informs your policy on immigration, and encourages you to make the process of immigration more welcoming for others like my grandma,” the student wrote.
Of the letters published so far, students are most concerned about abortion rights, education (like college costs, sexual education, and equity), immigration, and issues surrounding racial profiling and the Black Lives Matter movement.
The website will accept students’ letters through November 8, and the published letters will remain on the website now through the new president’s first 100 days in office.
This project is one way to get students involved in a heated, contentious presidential campaign without putting the onus on teachers to navigate polarizing issues during class discussions.
The project could also be used for students to hone their argumentative writing skills, while writing about an issue that personally resonates with them. The website also has a section of resources for educators on how to teach the election in the classroom.
One student ended his letter on transgender rights and racial profiling with a plea for the next president to listen to him:
“I know I may be young, and I know I’m not able to vote yet, but I am the future of this nation,” the student wrote. “I am a person who lives here, in the United States of America, and I have things to say. I may only be a kid, but I am an American kid, and my voice matters. I need you to hear me.”
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- American Politics Through the Eyes of an 8th Grader (Opinion)
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.