The Voting Writes website was made by Professor Bridget Robin Pool to share her passion for including civic learning in the college composition classroom. Bridget has taught English at Northern Virginia Community College since 2000. Here is her story of the creation of this curriculum:
Many of my students feel disempowered, apathetic, or ignorant of the political process. They inspired me to combine learning about writing with learning about democracy.
Consider this student comment at the end of a semester of studying elections:
I used to not care about voting. I used to say mehh if I vote or not it doesn't matter anyways, someone will vote. But I was wrong because my voice does matter and instead of complaining about the issues (like not having healthcare), I should at least vote and see the change. Now I have decided to vote no matter what.
Students' views are often sharply different at the beginning of the semester. Are you planning to vote?” I asked my fall 2016 community college composition students on the first day of class. One student wrote,
Due to my lack of knowledge in politics, I have decided to not vote this upcoming election. Unfortunately, I find that my voice is indifferent in the political scheme of a power hungry government.
One day, after a particularly lively class discussion, the student who had written that she had decided not to vote loudly exclaimed:
I want to vote! How do I register?
As the semester progressed and Election Day drew nearer, each student wrote a persuasive essay--an endorsement--of a candidate that appealed to him/her. During the final days of the campaign, they became increasingly aware that their own discourse was meaningful, and that awareness translated to better writing as well as a dedication to extending their learning beyond the classroom.
Election Day was thrilling. The class was abuzz. Several students paraded into class proudly wearing their “I Voted” stickers. They were so proud of themselves for being a part of the national conversation.
I repeated the curriculum in fall of 2018 during the midterm elections. This time I challenged students to use their writing and their voices to inform and persuade others to vote. By my count, forty-one students in my classes were directly responsible for or instrumental in inspiring the casting of approximately seventy-five ballots (including their own) in Virginia and across the nation. (That number is especially impressive given that there is a significant number of international students in my classes who are not eligible to vote at all, but they convinced some qualified citizens to vote in their stead.)
I created Voting Writes as a resource for college composition professors to incorporate civic education in the classroom. I hope that sharing my materials on this website will enable other instructors to similarly inspire their students. May we work to educate and empower students to participate in the work of maintaining--and building--democracy in the United States.
Bridget Robin Pool
Professor of English
Northern Virginia Community College - Loudoun Campus