As a former elected official of my local city government, I can tell you that there is nothing more important than voting in the upcoming elections. We are all at the mercy of our politicians who, more often than not, work full time at other jobs, and do not have the time, or expertise, to research issues that come up for a vote. They often vote on legislation based on what they think, not what they know, but sometimes they do listen to their constituents opinions. As teachers we need to set the example for our students because, often, their parents do not.
In federal elections, I am afraid that Americans are about to lose ground as the elections approach. Before you believe any political adds that you may see on TV, or from campaign literature in the mail, take time to check their validity by going to fact checking web sites like FactCheck.org, PolitiFact.com, and The Fact-Checker.com.
FactCheck.org has been around the longest and is sponsored by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. Browse the “Articles” tab, or “The Wire”. They also have The FactCheck Wire, a newsfeed, a mobile version at http://www.factcheck.org/mobile/, and most recently an education website for students: FactCheckED.
PolitiFact, is a product of the St. Petersburg (FL) Times and CQ, or CQ Roll Call Group who has been tracking the American Congress and its legislation for 50 years. Look at the Truth-o-Meter, or the Flip-O-Meter, which monitors candidates’ flip-flopping position statements. You can also look at chain emails. It’s amazing how many political rumors are started and perpetuated on the Internet through emails.
Fact-Checker looks at the other fact checking websites for information and solicits information from its readers as well. They encourage readers who may have documents, or proof of someone lying about something, to send it in. Michael Dobbs, who runs this kind of blog, wants to know and see information first hand. Some sites have videos embedded to view. There are a variety of other sites that do the same thing, such as OnTheIssues.org, RealClearPolitics, or OpenSecrets.org. You will be amazed at how many past and present candidates have made up the facts as they go along, Type in search terms like “death squads,” or the names of political candidates. I assure you, it is pure entertainment to see what some people will claim, to get elected, or to discredit their opponents. Unfortunately, all political parties have been caught lying or stretching the truth about themselves or the issues. They call it “spin.” I call it a sad state of affairs.
As educators of children, especially those who are old enough to vote, it is the responsibility of all of us, not just social studies teachers or librarians, to help them sort out the truth. We need to be actively involved in our voting decisions, or we will all be the victims of bad government. Being an uninformed voter is as bad as not voting at all.
By Susan Ridgeway, Streetsboro Education Association