Transforming the “McDonald’s Citizen”

With the Constitution Test behind us, we’ve spent the last week getting deeper into the idea of responsible citizenship. The discussion was largely driven by the awful week last week was. It began with an examination of citizenship. What is expected of a citizen? What are our rights and responsibilities? How does a government get it’s power, anyway? A good government requires it’s people to be educated and dedicated.

We have connections to our principles, or goals, and what the letter of the Constitution says.

cnn ooopsWith the news of Dallas, Boston, etc., the discussion shifted towards critical thinking. When we watch the news, how do we know what’s accurate? From CNN, to newspaper reporters, blogs and social media, many mistakes were made identifying the suspects and explaining what happened. It was a study in not only terrorism, but in fact-checking. With how quickly news spreads, responsible citizens cannot believe everything they hear. Mistakes are amplified in the name of sensationalism. Responsible and educated citizens make sure what they read is true, and verify it in the name of being accurate. Think critically and look for multiple sources.

baby reading newspaper

Lastly, what can WE do? How do we get involved? It begins with monitoring what our elected officials do. Listen/read/watch/tweet the news. Be award. Then, take social action. Talk to people. Create awareness. Share on Facebook. Oh, and LISTEN! LEARN from others by listening! Discuss, don’t argue! And social action allows you to take both informal and formal political action. Citizenship becomes realized when people contribute to their democracy in meaningful, subtle, and consistent ways. Which leads into our main idea. The majority of Americans don’t do this. We are often “McDonald’s Citizens.”

mcd-drive-thruThis isn’t a derogatory term, but a idea. Many people eat at fast food restaurants because it’s convenient  it’s cheap, and it tastes good. Similarly, most people don’t vote (or become politically active) because it’s too time consuming. We just vote for President (because it’s unavoidable). There may be some truth to that idea. Being a good citizen requires time. However, some dedication is required of all of us to be both healthy people, and responsible citizens. McDonald’s is crazy good, and easy. But, unfortunately, it’s not that good for you! Eating healthy requires time and effort, but obviously pays some great dividends. Same with voting… but… what are those dividends??? If you want to be healthy, you stop eating at McDonald’s so often. If you want to be a responsible citizen (and have a better country), we need to stop treating our democracy like we do our diets. 

We know McDonalds is unhealthy, but go to eat there anyway. How do we get people to want to vote. To vote not because they have to, but because the want to. How do we erase the excuses and realities that limit people from wanting to vote? It’s a major hurdle in the maintenance of our republic.

Today’s lesson culminated our study of responsible citizenship based on this theme. How do we get people to vote? How do we get people to contribute to our democracy more than a few times a year? Or during Presidential elections? Here are the posters and skits our kids came up with:

  • iVote app! Download the free app, research your candidates, and vote. At your convenience!
  • Business Balloting! Go to work, and there’s a voting booth at your job! Simply vote just like you’d get money from an ATM.
  • Dunkin Voting is the same idea, but at our favorite restaurants!
  • Connect issues to what the kids experience (for example, a friend getting hit by a car making traffic and vehicle safety realistic).
  • Have legislators and politicians meet with us and introduce their ideas to us.