Michael G. SheppardDemocracy doesn’t simply happen every November. It happens every day.

Year-round, taking place within the voting booth and outside of a political office, democracy is always in action. Democracy happens when young parents poll their children about what they might want for dinner; when counting ballots for homecoming queen; or when deciding the class president.

Establishing a tradition of civic responsibility involves education and helping youngsters understand the importance of voting, which will encourage them to vote as adults. Sadly, most states don’t require that students take American government. Consequently, this means that many young people do not know the three branches of government. Additionally, youngsters are firsthand observers, watching as their parents skirt civic responsibility, which fundamentally contributes to a legacy of diminishing participation in voting. Those children then become young eligible voters that don’t engage civically, which means that the majority of the public leave the very important decisions in the hands of a very few.

There’s little point in wagging the finger at young people for not knowing the founding fathers, the name of the first 13 colonies, or the homeplace of Abraham Lincoln when we aren’t preparing them enough. Young American are oblivious to their history, and when given national assessment tests in history, they underperform. A majority of young people lack proficiency.

Education and responsibility are paramount for fostering a clear civic understanding. Students should be encouraged to track local and national political events, and they should be invited to gather information on candidates to determine what the election process must be like. Following that action with “mock elections” can spark an ongoing desire for participation.

Young people can gain a sense of their influence. They can gain an understanding of citizen activism, civil rights, and political consequence. Discussing national politics can invite informed consciousness for future voters, who are otherwise concerned with Facebook and Snapchat.

Teachers can prepare students for democracy, but so can parents. Civic-minded community members can encourage conversations about politics at the dinner table, helping to fill the gaps left by an education system that doesn’t impress upon students of the importance of the democratic tradition and Election Day.

What are some things you think can be done to educate young people on the importance of voting?