The events of Jan. 6, when armed “protesters” stormed the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., has evoked all kinds of responses. One response that really caught my attention was to the effect that our society has not done a good job teaching young people about how democratic institutions actually work. The armed protesters seem to have little understanding of how presidents are elected — but it’s not just them. Far too many Americans really don’t know how democracy works at either the national, state, or local level.
I’d go further than this. Even if we start teaching civics in school again, kids need to learn more than the theory of democracy. I have long felt that being a part of a democratically-run congregation can be an excellent way for children and teens to see and experience how democracy works. And congregations are a great place for kids to practice some of the skills needed for practical democracy — skills like public speaking, interpersonal skills, leadership skills, and so on.
I’ve been thinking about new ways to incorporate more learning about democracy at UUCPA, and I’ll be talking with the Curriculum Committee about how we might implement some of those ideas. And I’d love to hear from you — what are some good ways to expose kids to more of the workings of our democratically-run congregation? — what democratic skills might we be teaching?