Students get hands-on lesson in democracy

Cris Ritchie — Editor

October 14, 2013

HAZARD—Students at Hazard Middle School got a lesson in democracy this week as they took part in a vote to elect representatives in their student government.

Students filed into the library all morning on Monday, where Perry County Clerk Haven King and his staff had set up actual voting machines to count each ballot cast. It is something the clerk’s office has done for Hazard Middle School, formerly known as Roy G. Eversole Middle School, for the past few years, but it’s also an important lesson is civics, noted Derek Allen, the school’s seventh and eighth grade social studies teacher.

“It’s first-hand experience,” Allen said. “Not everything you can learn out of a textbook, and when they’re able to actually get up and do those things, it helps a ton with their ability to figure out how things are going on.”

Not only will the winners of Monday’s election represent the school’s student body, they will also move on to participate in the Kentucky Youth Assembly, one of the largest youth mock government events in the nation with over 1,300 students taking part. The event is set to take place Dec. 5-7.

Allen, who serves as the students’ sponsor at the event, said the assembly will give the students an opportunity to develop their legislation based upon issues in their own community. Once their bill is ready, they will present it for passage.

“They basically act as a legislator,” Allen said, adding the students’ bill will be graded by their peers on things such as creativity and feasibility. The best bills will then be presented in the state Capitol building in Frankfort.

As a social studies teacher, Allen said this practice also helps him illustrate to his students how government in Kentucky works. He said he has been able to add some of the same activities into his own classroom on a smaller scale.

“These students who get involved with this, it is a lot of work on their part,” he added. “They are very dedicated and it takes a lot of time for them to go through and figure out issues they want to address.”

King said his office has taken the voting machines to other schools in the past, and can also help others in the county if they want. But the main benefit is with the younger generation, he added, because it shows them not only the importance of voting, but how easy it is.

“I think one of the biggest things, it teaches the importance when you tell them about the freedom we have is because of our troops,” King said. “Not only that, they can go and tell their parents and grandparents, there’s nothing to that machine, which I think is a big plus for us.”