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Students will discuss the role of citizens in a democracy


Social Studies  


9, 10, 11, 12  

Title – Title – Do Something about… Voting/Civic Engagement
Lesson 2: Why Is Democracy So Demanding?
By – Do Something, Inc. /
Primary Subject – Social Studies
Grade Level – 9-12

Do Something about…
Teen Voting/Civic Engagement


The following lesson is the second lesson of a 10-lesson
Teen Voting/Civic Engagement Unit from Do Something, Inc.
Other lessons in this unit are as follows:

Lesson 1: What is Civic Action?
Students learn about why people get involved in their communities.
Lesson 2: Why Is Democracy So Demanding?
(See lesson below)
Students will discuss the role of citizens in a democracy.
Lesson 3: Representin’
Students learn about the system of representation in a democracy.
Lesson 4: How have people used elected offices to make changes?
Students learn how holding a political office effects change.
Lesson 5: Social Capital
Students learn about social capital and how networking is a tool for civic action.
Lesson 6: Politics, A Laughing Matter
Students learn how cartoons and satire can raise concern about an issue
Lesson 7: How do organizers bring about change?
Students earn about the strategies of unionizing and boycotting.
Lesson 8: Why do I have to do jury duty?
Students learn how jury duty is a type of civic engagement.
Lesson 9: How can I use writing to lead others to action?
Students learn how the written word is a method of civic action.
Lesson 10: How can speaking engage others in my cause?
Students learn about the power of speeches in gathering support for community change.

More student teen voting resources can be found at:

For more Service-Learning Curricula check out:

Lesson 2: Why Is Democracy So Demanding?


Students will discuss the role of citizens in a democracy.


Civics Standard 20:

  • Understands the roles of political parties, campaigns, elections, and associations and groups in American politics

Reading Standard 7:

  • Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of informational texts


    1. Warm-up: Explain to students that before 1971, people under 21 were not allowed to vote. The 26 th amendment lowered the voting age to under 18. Ask students if they think 18 year olds should be allowed to vote? What about 17 year olds? Why or why not? How does this compare to other age limits that are set by the government?
    2. Have students look at the following statistics on voter turnout. Are they surprised by the numbers? In 2004, the youth vote surged by 11% points. What do they attribute to this change?

2004: Turnout 55.3%

2000: Turnout: 51%

“In 2004, 47% of 18-24 year old citizens voted, 66% of citizens 25 and older voted.” (

“Young women voted at higher rates than young men in the 2004 election. 50 percent of 18-24 year old women and 44 percent of young men voted in 2004.” ( facts from civic

    1. Discover: Post and discuss the following quote by George Marshall: “Democracy is the most demanding of all forms of government in terms of the energy, imagination and public spirit required of the individual.” Explain to students that citizens who are non-participants in democracy are considered free riders.
    2. Pose the following question for debate: Should free riders be required to pay more taxes since they are not contributing in other ways? Should those that are involved in democracy receive extra benefits? Cite, for an example, how Australia, which has a 95% voting rate, fines citizens who do not vote. How do students feel about this type of law?
  1. Take Action : Have students begin to research their topics. What would they like to happen? What are the major issues involved with this topic? Are there any politicians that have shown support for their topic? Has it been debated? What are the different sides?

Other Activities

  1. Have students reflect on the following statement: “Community action should be mandatory for high school graduation.” Do students agree? Why or why not?

You can also refer to the following article for analysis of how high school students view community action learning:

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