Democracy. Community.

We’ve been talking a little about marked days and seasons, from sacred festivals to Embrace Your Inner Geek Day (a day to be encouraged in schools, surely). Now, it’s a different kind of important time, for some of us in the UK. Time to vote.

Are you feeling like Brenda? Are you intrigued by what might happen nationally and in your own constituency? Or are you wondering why on earth Mantra Lingua seems to be getting political?

Well, don’t worry. We’re not. We said in an email that we’d share some ideas and resources to do with getting young people engaged with the political process. So that’s what we’ll do.

It’s a serious task. (Hey, I’m trying to be democratic by linking to the Telegraph in my blogs, as well as to the Guardian and the I). In a way, though the unhappiness of those who are passionately engaged but just too young to vote is sad, we can at least be hopeful that they will take the opportunity to vote with both hands once they hit their eighteenth birthday. Provided they don’t get disillusioned. The scary issue for democracy is that not everybody feels involved, as statistics show.

So schools educate in this area too. Reading, ’riting, and remembering to rock up at the polling station. The last few weeks have seen some excellent mock elections in schools. Pupils of all ages have been involved. Without detracting from these brilliant efforts, I am reminded of the landslide Monster Raving Loony victory at my school, which I think was more to do with a sense that it was funny than a sense that it was a piece of much-needed satirical protest at the current political system. I can’t remember the manifesto promises (sorry, pledges).  I voted Green, but unfortunately this party’s slogan – ‘Be Clean, Vote Green’ – was printed on rather too many flyers, slipped into all the lockers and generally flying all over the place and onto the floor, for the party’s green credentials to be taken seriously, as I remember my English teacher pointing out, somewhat disapprovingly. The other parties, the ‘normal’ ones? Deemed to be rather boring.

Lessons from this: have an election, try to keep it serious, enforce rules on campaign spending just as in real life, make it a rule to debate real and current important issues of serious gravity (no shortage of those). In other words, some teacher overseeing of the campaigns, as well as of the administration, is potentially a good idea.

Anyway, the time for mock elections is over for a while (we hope; Brenda very much hopes). Unless you were to hold one if a council election comes around in your area at a separate time. Introducing students to local councillors in some way might not be a terrible idea, given that council elections are often very poorly attended.

But the main focus today is on making a sense of democracy and citizenship and community normal for our young people on a daily basis. UNESCO can start us on the fundamentals.

It’s important to note that these things begin on a personal level, with how we interact with others. In our last few emails and blog posts, we were getting at this point. How do we behave in a friendly way? How does this turn into having a good community spirit? And the sense of good relations expands ever outwards, into a respect for democratic processes and a desire to work with others. That’s the idea.

So to start with we’re talking about the kind of friendliness, politeness, and classroom manners that everyone reading this would aspire towards anyway. This blog discusses such things in the context of the (politically fraught) notion of British Values (which we won’t go into right now), whilst delicately pointing out some of the absurdities implicit when using this analysis with young children (there's nothing new to Sarah about the things she lists). Older children can have focused debates and discussions, and engage with politics in lessons from Geography to Drama. Get them to critique concepts. (I like doing that, but then I have an English degree).

What resources do you use? What resources have you perhaps not thought of using before?

At this point I take inspiration from Mantra Lingua. As we’ve recently pointed out, encouraging Community Publishing is one of the ways in which Mantra stands for community, for helping each other, for sharing. There are several digital ways in which you can share each other’s work. Now for the applications.

There’s a gorgeous book called Walter who Wanted Everything. You can see it if you come and say hello to us at a conference. It was made, using YOUcreate and PENpal, by a primary school. There’s a story, with pictures drawn by the children – and at the corner of each page, you can hear a child reciting one of the articles from the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The wordy text takes up no space, and it relates to each situation in which the hero of the story finds himself. Now, I’m not a digital obsessive, at all, but I can’t think of a better way to get pupils, including small pupils, involved in thinking about political processes and policies and laws. As a physical object, the book literally enacts the relationship between our lives and the freedoms and rights enshrined in laws. The two occupy different spaces, but they are bound to each other. The latter informs the former.

You could do something like this. And you could share it. You could add written or spoken translations in the languages represented by your school community. Another piece of Mantra technology, ViVOS, lets you make paper resources with sound in a really informal, un-precious way – and they can be shared as well. Creating an engaged resource, using your children’s written words, along with their voices and pictures, and then sharing it with a wider education community if you wanted: that could be an exciting way to get minds thinking about their place in the world.

Now, go out and get that cross in that box.