Government and Citizenship class encourages political awareness

Government+and+Citizenship+teacher+Aaron+Shulow+encourages+students+to+engage+in+politics+and+government.

Chloe Morse

Government and Citizenship teacher Aaron Shulow encourages students to engage in politics and government.

Chloe Morse, The Rubicon Editor

For the first time in the school’s history, the history department is offering a course on government. The class, titled Government and Citizenship, focuses on the institution of U.S. government and how citizens are able to interact with it. The class also emphasizes external engagement with government, preventing students from only talking, and not seeing, government.

Students are required to spend ten hours observing government in action (e.g. watching a city council hearing or session at the capitol) or assisting a campaign. They can also work with voter registration and turnout organizations, although they cannot complete all ten hours with that work. History and social studies teacher for the class, Aaron Shulow, wants to ensure that students are actually interacting with government, and not just civic engagement groups.

“I do think civic engagement, and encouraging people to vote and signing them up to vote, is part of the citizenship aspect [of the class]. [However], students can’t use all ten contact hours signing up voters. Some of those hours have to be observing the government, whether that’s a local, state, or federal level,” said Shulow.

After they complete their hours, students will write a two page essay on their experience and give a presentation to the class, explaining what they did and how it connected to government. So what’s the point of this requirement?

“I think it’s really critical that everyone interact with their government, so they know who’s in their government, they know what they government is doing, they know as to why it’s doing what it’s doing, because if people don’t know what’s happening, they don’t have an opportunity to say that if they don’t like it, they [will] act to change it,” said Shulow.

However, not everyone will be fulfilling the requirement with intent to change something about their government. Some people choose to ignore politics, whether because they dislike it or because they don’t understand it.

“Realistically, I just want the opportunity for people to have a basic understanding of what government is and how it works, and for people once equipped with that knowledge to determine their position with it,” said Shulow. “But I’m hoping to introduce at least the idea that government is important, and it affects not just individual people’s lives, but everyone’s lives, and you should care about something whether or not it impacts you directly.”

I think it’s really critical that everyone interact with their government”

Whether students embrace the chance to interact with government or merely see it as a hindrance will be clearer as the assignment comes to a close. Regardless of their perspective however, the requirement will be an opportunity to understand the basics of government outside of a classroom setting, and hopefully how government affects people on a day-to-day basis.