Sunday, February 7, 2016

Every Vote Matters: The Power of Your Voice, from Student Elections to the Supreme Court

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Rating: 5 Stars

Review:

I received this book as an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This is a fantastically written, insightful read for young people about the power of voting. The author begins by addressing the history of voting by both the populous and the Court, key issues involving voting such as if it should be mandatory, barriers to voting, and so on. A time line of key SCOTUS decisions is also given then delves into the Supreme Court and a variety of cases that were for the most part decided by the slimmest of margins. Along the way each issue is followed by section entitled "Talk, Think, and Take Action" where the author asks some great thought-provoking questions for young people to think about. I feel like these questions are so important, so readers are not just reading the material but engaging with it and really figuring out what it means to them and how they might use these ideas in their communities. Within part one the author also gives a background of how SCOTUS works, how they decide the cases heard, the dynamic of the justices, and so on. This background is important, as I know myself I did not begin to really understand how SCOTUS worked until my senior year in high school in an AP Government and Politics (AP GAP) class.

Part 2 introduces a variety of cases. Each one is presented on its own, but follows the same formula. First, the key issue of the case and a brief summary related to the amendment concerning it. Then there are the facts of the case, how the court responded and the judgment it handed down, the Justices' own words regarding the ruling, a 'what if...' had the decision gone the other way, cases related to the one addressed, then the 'Talk, Think, and Take Action' section which again asks great, insightful questions to get readers thinking about how they get involved with the issues related to the case. Finally the case section ends with 'closing comments' and further reading and resources.

The book does a fantastic, thorough job in laying out each case without overly simplifying or talking down to the audience. I feel like that is so important, because young people often deserve a lot more credit than they are given. While our government is complicated, we have to ensure that the next generation understands how it works, that their votes do matter, so they can participate and be productive members of society. Apathy is about as dangerous a disease as anything when it comes to voter participation. This book goes a long to help readers see how easily a SCOTUS decision could have gone one way or another by just one vote. ONE VOTE. At 18 we each have one, we must use them.

Interspersed throughout the sections and cases are 'Did You Know?' facts related to the issue being addressed. I thought these were great additions to the text and will help the reader further understand the material. My only complaint really has more to do with this being an ARC on my Kindle than the content. The main text was light to begin with, so the 'Did you know?' was even lighter to differentiate the two. Hopefully this will be remedied when the book is released, though it would likely not be an issue for physical copies of the text.

My final thought is that when it comes to politics, government, and voting, it is difficult to be unbiased. However, that is exactly what the author strives for and is quite successful. The instance of addressing the issue of high school proms and students wanting to bring same-sex dates comes to mind. I like that the author does not inject his opinion into the issue. Instead, here and in many other instances, he uses phrases like, "whether you are for or against it..."

While this material might be a bit over the heads of my 4th and 5th graders, I think it is certainly something I could use with some of my 6th graders. Highly recommended.

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