The classes, led by the University of Virginia Center for Politics instructors, take place at four different locations
around the state this week. Wednesday’s classes were held in Huntington and
attended by teachers from Huntington and Charleston area schools. The
workshops are part of the Youth Leadership Initiative.
Meg Heubeck is director of instruction
for the Youth Leadership Initiative. She says it’s about getting children interested
in the democratic process.
“If we want a thriving democracy we have
to protect it by educating our students about how it works. We need it to
function better than it does now. We need people to be able to sit down and
discuss things with each other civilly, so these are all things that the Youth
Leadership Initiative does,” Heubeck said.
The Youth Leadership Initiative reaches approximately 50,000 teachers nationwide and in
schools abroad. It organizes yearly mock elections, an online legislative
summit, and Democracy Corps, a service learning component.
The workshop was for teachers in grades
K-12. Heubeck says it’s important to teach even young children about the government.
“As a person who’s been going into
schools for quite some time I can tell you that the younger, if you start
younger, my child goes with me to vote, that just becomes something that you
expect, So by having a mock election in the school, you get those younger
students use to it,” Heubeck said.
During the workshop they discussed
everything from what makes up a person’s political ideology, to how to have an
appropriate conversation about politics. Heubeck says unlike when she was
growing up, politics isn’t discussed in the family environment like it used to
“I think first people don’t eat around
the table as much, don’t spend as much time as a family unit and then the
political atmosphere that we have now - in fact I just read a newspaper article
the other day that showed if you’re very set in your beliefs, even if you’re
given facts that contradict that - you tend not to believe it,” Heubeck said.
Scott White teaches civics at Cabell
Midland high school. He says it can be hard to get children interested in
politics when they have no back ground in it.
“I think a lot of students reach 12th
grade and their interests lie somewhere totally outside, different than
politics, different than government and they think it’s boring and if we can do
anything to make it applicable and exciting, then I think that's what we truly
need to do,” White said.
White says he hopes that through
workshops like this they can inspire today’s youth to be more civically engaged
and more civil in political debate.
“Hopefully we can take this generation
to a different level. It may not be something that happens over night, but if
we can get back to a situation where they can talk about it with each other, and I
see that emerging, there are kids that are really involved and want to make a
change,” White said.
The YLI have conferences in Wheeling Thursday and in Martinsburg Friday.