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The practice of voting as intangible

heritage: An exercise worth cultivating


Ann Elizabeth Wilson | Elvira Barriga Ubed | Joaquim Prats Cuevas
Ann Elizabeth Wilson. awilson@ub.edu
Elvira Barriga Ubed. elvirabarriga@ub.edu
Joaquim Prats Cuevas. jprats@ub.edu
Grupo DHIGECS.Universidad de Barcelona. Facultad de Educación
Campus Mundet. Paseo de la Vall d’Hebron, 171, 08035 Barcelona (España)
Recepción del artículo: 26-05-2014. Aceptación de su publicación: 18-09-2014

abstract. The concept of heritage has widened to resumen. A medida que el concepto de lo
span the tangible to the natural to the intangible, que constituye el patrimonio se ha ampliado
and from objects and monuments to geological desde el tangible, al natural y al patrimonio
structures to cultural practices. Yet academics have intangible, de los objetos y monumentos a
yet to hold a comprehensive debate on the extent to las estructuras geológicas y formaciones a las
which intangible heritage should be conceptualized, prácticas culturales, los académicos todavía
valued, and promoted. Further discussion is mantienen un amplio debate en cuanto a qué
needed to determine what cultural practices, se considera patrimonio inmaterial, qué es lo
beyond traditional forms of folklore, should que se concibe como tal, qué se debe valorar y
be included under the hypernym of intangible promover. Es necesario ampliar el debate para
heritage, while at the same time outlining both definir qué prácticas culturales, más allá del
priorities and limits. This article argues that political folclore, deben ser incluidos. Se necesita más
participation, an element so key to the health and debate sobre la forma de definir qué prácticas
preservation of our democratic societies, and culturales, deben ser incluidas bajo la categoría
which unesco unswervingly promotes, is worth de patrimonio intangible, mientras que se
considering valuable intangible heritage in that it delinean sus límites y principios que lo definen.
is fundamental to maintaining and improving the En este artículo se presenta una breve revisión
democratic structures that exist today across the sobre el movimiento internacional para
world. The authors make a case for using unesco’s preservar y promover el patrimonio inmaterial
intangible cultural heritage platform in an attempt y se defiende que en la participación política, un
to safeguard and promote conventional types of elemento clave para la fortaleza y preservación de
political participation, particularly voting, given nuestras sociedades democráticas es necesario
the decrease in voter turnout, especially among tener en cuenta el patrimonio intangible, ya que
youth, in many western societies. Given that es fundamental para mantener las estructuras
empirical evidence shows a correlation between democráticas existentes hoy en día en todo el
knowledge and voting and suggests that voting is a mundo. El artículo se centra en la afirmación de
habit-forming practice, it is argued that one of the la salvaguardia de los tipos convencionales de
best ways to promote voter turnout, and political participación política, como ejercer el derecho al
participation in general, is through educational voto, lo cual en muchas sociedades occidentales
initiatives such as mock student elections that are ha sufrido una notable disminución,
run parallel to actual campaigns. The article provides especialmente entre los jóvenes. Teniendo en
examples of organizations and administrations cuenta evidencias empíricas se muestra una
that are already putting these types of initiatives importante correlación entre la formación
into practice, and concludes by calling for more y el hecho de ejercer el derecho al voto y que
empirical evaluation of these types of measures. esta es una práctica que se crea con la práctica.

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THE PRACTICE OF VOTING AS INTANGIBLE HERITAGE: AN EXERCISE WORTH CULTIVATING

keywords: intangible heritage, political Además, los autores afirman que la mejor manera
participation, voting, mock elections, civic de promover la participación electoral es a través
education. de iniciativas educativas, como los simulacros de
elecciones entre los estudiantes que se llevan a
cabo en paralelo a las campañas electorales reales.
El artículo explicita ejemplos de organizaciones
y administraciones que ya están poniendo
en práctica este tipo de iniciativas y concluye
reclamando más estudios evaluativos sobre este
tipo de propuestas.

palabras clave: patrimonio intangible,


participación política, simulación de voto,
educación cívica.

Introduction A move toward using the term intangible cul-


For many, the term intangible cultural heritage tural heritage for cultural practices in a broader
brings to mind a variety of locally-based folklore sense, those that are shared across borders, and
traditions, such as castells in Catalonia, the Oruro which act to improve the goals set forth in the
carnaval in Bolivia, Naqqāli or dramatic story-tell- unesco framework of human rights, could be a
ing in Iran, or igwala, the gourd trumpet music welcome and complementary addition to the ex-
and dance of the Busoga Kingdom in Uganda. isting intangible cultural heritage platform. The
This should come as no surprise since the impe- definition of intangible cultural heritage broadly
tus for the intangible heritage movement came includes many types of cultural heritage and con-
from widespread concern that globalization and/ tinues to be broadened. An initial definition was
or the Information Society would end many folk- collectively written at the 2003 Convention for the
lore customs central to the lives of people in di- Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage
verse cultures around the world, thus robbing hu- in Paris:
manity of aspects of its rich cultural diversity (for
a review see Kurin, 2004; Brown, 2005). Neverthe- Intangible cultural heritage means the practices,
less, attempts to preserve traditional folklore of- representations, expressions, knowledge, skills —as
ten change and, some would argue, even “destroy” well as the instruments, objects, artefacts and cul-
the very intangible heritage that has been identi- tural spaces associated therewith— that communi-
fied for protection, for example, by attracting mass ties, groups and, in some cases, individuals recog-
tourism which requires fundamental changes to nize as part of their cultural heritage. This intangi-
the performance of traditional practices. The min- ble cultural heritage, transmitted from generation to
ute someone fixes a fluid, ever-changing practice generation, is constantly recreated by communities
and attempts to stop the process of change, that and groups in response to their environment, their
act of preservation itself is, paradoxically, an act of interaction with nature and their history, and pro-
change. Thus, the way that the term intangible cul- vides them with a sense of identity and continuity,
tural heritage is currently employed can be consid- thus promoting respect for cultural diversity and hu-
ered problematic in itself. Another concern that man creativity. For the purposes of this Convention,
has been voiced in the debate thus far is where to consideration will be given solely to such intangible
draw the line as to what is acceptable in one cul- cultural heritage as is compatible with existing inter-
ture and not in another; practices like polygamy, national human rights instruments, as well as with
bull fighting, and fox hunting may be important the requirements of mutual respect among commu-
cultural practices for some, but whether or not nities, groups and individuals, and of sustainable de-
they should be considered as intangible cultural velopment (Article 2.1).
heritage is up for debate (Santacana, 2014).

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MONOGRAFÍAS ANN ELIZABETH WILSON | ELVIRA BARRIGA UBED | JOAQUIM PRATS CUEVAS

Although the 2003 definition of intangible cul- responsibility which helps individuals to feel part of
tural heritage is comprehensive, it still left doubts one or different communities and to feel part of so-
as to how unesco should prioritize candidates and ciety at large (p. 4-5).
what limits to set as to what the term encompasses.
Logan (2007) has argued that the debate on There are a number of elements in the unesco
the definition of intangible cultural heritage has (2011) definition of intangible cultural heritage
opened up a “Pandora’s box of difficulties, confu- that are in sync with political participation prac-
sions, and complexities” (p. 33). He believes that tices such as voting. Potentially, political partici-
the solution to this somewhat daunting debate is pation “helps individuals feel part of one or differ-
to bring human rights to the center of the debate ent communities”, “contributes to social cohesion”
to be used as a guide in determining what is con- it also can act as an impetus to strengthen or “[en-
sidered intangible cultural heritage by UNECSO courage] a sense of identity or responsibility”, and
and what is not. He writes, “As heritage profes- the “social and economic value of this transmis-
sionals —practitioners, policy-makers, research- sion of knowledge is relevant for minority groups
ers and educators— we need to learn how to work and for mainstream social groups within a State,
within this new paradigm, to deal with the dis- and is as important for developing States as for
juncture between conservation and human rights developed ones”.
principles, to adopt a human rights foundation for Molina, Salazar and Sáez (2014) likewise con-
our heritage work, and to engage more fully with tend that different practices related to political
the public whose cultural heritage we are seeking participation could be considered intangible her-
to conserve” (2012, p. 242). Logan’s point of view itage. These authors argue that political activities
brings into question whether or not broader con- should be recognized as heritage in order to in-
ceptualizations of the term intangible cultural her- crease the engagement and the protection of cur-
itage should be brought into question on the basis rent democratic systems and also to encourage cit-
of their social benefit to society. Could a cultural izens to be more conscious of their own civil and
practice such as informed voting, or other forms social rights. With the 2013 addition of the “Med-
of political participation,1 earn a place on unes- iterranean diet”, a candidacy presented jointly by
co’s list of intangible cultural heritage? Cyprus, Croatia, Spain, Greece, Italy, Morocco,
Since the initial 2003 Convention, the concept and Portugal, the debate as to what constitutes in-
of intangible heritage has been broadened by a tangible heritage was pushed to a new limit. Intan-
more recent (2011) definition that has been pub- gible cultural heritage is now not only considered
lished by unesco: social practices such as rituals and festive events,
traditional craftsmanship, etc., but also those so-
The importance of intangible cultural heritage cial practices beneficial to the common good, and
is not the cultural manifestation itself but rather shared across borders, which may be argued pro-
the wealth of knowledge and skills that is transmit- vides many with an increased sense of identity and
ted through it from one generation to the next. The continuity that the current accepted definition of
social and economic value of this transmission of intangible heritage attempts to embody. This po-
knowledge is relevant for minority groups and for tential candidacy of political participation and/
mainstream social groups within a State, and is as or voter turnout could garner consensus on the
important for developing States as for developed widespread benefits of promoting healthy demo-
ones. Intangible cultural heritage […] contribute[s] cratic societies and improving those that already
to giving us a sense of identity and continuity, pro- exist.
viding a link from our past, through the present, and unesco is no stranger to pro-democratic ini-
into our future. Intangible cultural heritage does not tiatives and is a blatant supporter of spreading
give rise to questions of whether or not certain prac- democratic values worldwide. unesco’s Universal
tices are specific to a culture. It contributes to so- Declaration on Democracy (1997) states “Democ-
cial cohesion, encouraging a sense of identity and racy is a universally recognized ideal as well as a
goal, which is based on common values shared by
1 For a discussion on politics and political communi- peoples throughout the world community irre-
cation, including voting, as a form of cultural practice, see spective of cultural, political, social and economic
Schudson (2001). differences. It is thus a basic right of citizenship to

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THE PRACTICE OF VOTING AS INTANGIBLE HERITAGE: AN EXERCISE WORTH CULTIVATING

be exercised under conditions of freedom, equal- uses other avenues to promote these principles,
ity, transparency and responsibility, with due re- using the platform of intangible cultural heritage
spect for the plurality of views, and in the interest may be complementary in safeguarding and pro-
of the polity” (p. 1-2). Over the past few decades, moting these practices.
unesco has organized international conferences
on democracy, democratic culture, and education Why does the practice of voting need
for democracy, and edited numerous publications safeguarding and promotion?
on the latter subjects; it has consistently credited Many may argue that without the participation
democratic practices as fundamental to sustain- of an informed electorate in a plurality of ways,
able development and peace (1997; 2002). democracy ceases to work. Lipset defines
In a recent document also edited by unesco, democracy as “a political system which supplies
Boutros-Ghali, et al. write: “Democracy is a sys- regular constitutional opportunities for changing
tem whereby the whole of society can participate, governing officials, and a social mechanism
at every level, in the decision-making process which permits the largest possible part of the
and keep control of it. Its foundation is the full population to influence major decisions by
observance of human rights, as defined by both choosing among contenders for political office”
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and (1959, p.  71; see also Lipset, 2000). In many
the Vienna Pacts and Declaration of 1993” (2003, western democracies, voter turnout, especially
p. 9-10). The authors continue by highlighting the that of youth, has consistently dropped in
importance that democracy plays, as a cultural el- numbers over the past three decades (see Blais &
ement or “state of mind” and as shared heritage: Rubenson, 2013). In the European parliamentary
elections and in the mid-term elections in the
In short, democracy can be defined as a political US, voter turnout is at devastatingly low rates
system that is capable of correcting its own dysfunc- (see also Franklin & Hobolt, 2011). Whatever
tions. But a true democracy cannot be restricted to the election, young people increasingly choose
this institutional format alone. It also needs to be to not exercise their right to vote. The reasons
embodied in a culture, a state of mind that fosters for this are complex and varied, but a number of
tolerance and respect for other people, as well as plu- reasons are highlighted in the pertinent literature.
ralism, equilibrium and dialogue between the forces Some scholars argue that youth voters simply
that make up a society […]. These basic democratic do not share the same value system as older gen-
principles constitute a fundamental source of com- erations. They do not have the same sense of duty
mon values that can be described as the common nor see the usefulness or immediate social bene-
heritage of humankind (Boutros-Ghali, et al. 2003, fit of voting (Dalton, 2007; Wattenberg, 2007) and
p. 10). thus simply do not register in countries that re-
quire voter registration, or do not show up on elec-
The idea behind political participation prac- tion day, or bother to turn in their absentee ballot.
tices like voting is to allow citizens of a country In some countries, memories of war and struggles
or given region to hold institutions accountable, for universal suffrage may be long past and their
call for change, and influence actions of their pol- contact with these struggles may be limited to a
iticians. However, it is up to a nation’s citizens to few pages of a history or civics textbook.
vote, organize, and petition for change. In recent Another reason that younger voters may feel
times, especially in light of the economic turn- alienated from politics is a feeling of disillusion-
down, democratic institutions and their politi- ment. In her comparative review of students and
cians have increasingly come under fire, which, political education in five countries, Hahn (1998)
ironically often causes lower voter turnout and found that in the us, uk, Netherlands, and Ger-
increased apathy. Citizens of modern western de- many less than one fourth of the students surveyed
mocracies need to realize that it is through vot- believed politicians could be trusted; in Denmark,
ing, petitioning government, talking to politicians, roughly half said they could be trusted. Younger
peaceful protests, in sum, active participation, that generations have been shown to be less likely to
democracy is preserved and strengthened. If the identify with political parties than older people
unesco itself recognizes basic democratic princi- (Converse, 1976; Biorcio & Mannheimer, 1995;
ples as “the common heritage of humankind” and Tilley, 2003). O’Toole, Marsh, and Jones (2003)

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MONOGRAFÍAS ANN ELIZABETH WILSON | ELVIRA BARRIGA UBED | JOAQUIM PRATS CUEVAS

point out that youth voting abstinence is often live is democracy and the participation of the peo-
mistaken as apathy or ambivalence: “To put it sim- ple that live under this government. Nevertheless,
ply, political participation has a number of ‘oth- few of these classes familiarize students with the
ers’, not just apathy. Many young people are cyn- act of voting or introduce them to the ideologies
ical, taking ‘a plague on all your houses’ as their and practices of the political parties most will have
mantra; others don’t feel that they can influence the opportunity to vote for when they come of vot-
outcomes and are alienated from the political sys- ing age. Students may fall victim to seeing them-
tem” (p. 350). selves as subjects of an enigmatic system rather
Aside from possible dealignment, disillusion- than potent democratic actors.
ment, or cynicism, many young people feel at a Recent studies on the effectiveness of civics ed-
loss when it comes to politics. They lack under- ucation environments point to the importance of
standing of party differences, how political deci- an open classroom climate for cognitive devel-
sions affect their lives, and how they can partici- opment, which may have the strongest effect on
pate. Many are unversed in the intricacies of vot- democratic attitudes and participation patterns
ing strategy and may feel at a loss when it comes (Hooghe & Quintelier, 2011; Persson, 2014; Tor-
to a plurality of choices. This insecurity in some ney-Purta, 2002). Open classroom climates in gen-
young potential voters can disguise itself as disin- eral are considered those that encourage students
terest. A number of studies have been dedicated to investigate issues, explore their own opinions,
to the relationship between political participation and express those opinions openly in classroom
and political knowledge. debate (see Torney-Purta, Lehmann, Oswald, &
Schulz, 2001, p. 137-138). Classroom climates that
Links between political participation and integrate active learning activities by encouraging
political knowledge student input and role playing are easily integrated
The hypothesized link between political knowl- into civics education curriculum. As Archer and
edge and political participation is not new. Almost Miller (2001) write, “Active learning techniques
two centuries ago, Alexis de Tocqueville (1835) seem a natural fit for political science. The sub-
postulated that those who read newspapers were ject matter lends itself to discussion and debate,
more likely to participate in public associations. theories and decision-making can be evaluated
More recently, however, scholars have shown that in light of current events, and institutions… lend
lack of knowledge was considered by potential themselves easily to simulations” (2001, p. 430).
young voters themselves as one of the most im- Active learning approaches in civics classes have
portant reasons why they do not vote (Delli Car- been shown to increase knowledge retention and
pini & Keeter, 1996). A higher level of political improve judgment when it comes to making civ-
knowledge is also thought to encourage people to ic-related decisions (Lay & Smarick, 2006; Bon-
seek out others who are politically oriented, thus well & Sutherland, 1996; Martens & Gainous,
encouraging political participation (Nie, Junn, & 2013; Omelicheva & Avdeyeva, 2008; Frederk-
Stehlik-Barry, 1996). The longitudinal results of ing, 2005). Simulations lead to increased under-
Krampen’s (2000) study show that an individual’s standing of the concepts presented in class and in
perception of their own levels of political compe- readings, especially those regarding complex situ-
tence and political knowledge are highly predic- ations (Frederking, 2005; Grummel, 2003; Lay &
tive of political activity and voting in early adult- Smarick, 2007; Pappas & Peaden, 2004; Shellman
hood among Germans. Numerous other studies & Turan, 2006). Since students are forced to apply
have also linked higher levels of political knowl- theories and concepts to lifelike situations when
edge with higher likelihood to vote and/or other- they participate in simulations and case studies,
wise engage actively in politics (Junn, 1991; Mil- they gain a deeper understanding of the questions
ner, 2002; Popkin & Dimock, 1999; Rosenstone & at hand and are required to think critically about
Hansen, 1993; Verba, Scholozman & Brady, 1995). the information to which they are exposed (Shell-
man & Turan, 2006).
Active learning in civics education
In most modern democracies, generations of stu-
dents have sat in civics classes and are told that the
strength of the political systems under which they

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THE PRACTICE OF VOTING AS INTANGIBLE HERITAGE: AN EXERCISE WORTH CULTIVATING

Electoral simulations: Increased learning participation through mock elections have also
and voter turnout? shown evidence for potential change in voter
There are few empirical studies that assess the cor- turnout. Linimon and Joslyn (2002), using re-
relation between mock election curricular projects gression analyses, found that first-time voters in
and voter turnout in actual campaigns, but those counties using Kids Voting USA curriculum were
studies carried out so far point to positive out- more likely to vote than their counterparts in
comes. McDevitt and Kiousis’ (2006) qualitative other counties. Well-documented factors that in-
study found that through the program Kid’s Vot- fluence political participation include the media
ing usa, communication about politics in partic- (Atkin, 1981; Sotirovic & McLeod, 2001) and dis-
ipant’s homes increased the probability of voting cussion with peers (Lake & Huckfeldt, 1998) and
when these participants reached voting age. Us- family (Beck & Jennings, 1982; Westholm, 1999).
ing evidence from “multiple waves” of student and These are elements that can easily be integrated
parent interviews, the authors argue that the news and taken advantage of in civil education courses
media use at home, and discussions with parents and which come into play especially when mock
about an ongoing election campaign contemplated elections are carried out in parallel to actual cam-
in the Kid’s Voting USA activities stimulated par- paigns. Nevertheless, youth who live in homes
ents to pay more attention to news and to gain po- with largely absent parents, foster homes, single
litical knowledge. McDevitt and Kiousis believe parent homes, parents with deficient language
that the news media use and discussions with par- resources, an abusive home life, etc., might have
ents magnified learning effects in the short term many less opportunities to take advantage of the
and were responsible for sustaining them in the discussion about politics at home on which Mc-
long term. Devitt and Kiousis’ (2006) findings place so much
Civic education programs that include direct importance.

Tabla 1. Multiclass mock election programs run parallel to actual campaigns

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MONOGRAFÍAS ANN ELIZABETH WILSON | ELVIRA BARRIGA UBED | JOAQUIM PRATS CUEVAS

Franklin (2004) emphasizes early socializa- and, in groups, created an imaginary party and
tion experience as an important factor in affect- campaign. The students participate actively in
ing voting turnout. Furthermore, running a mock every stage of the voting simulation guided by
election parallel to an actual campaign and elec- their teacher and excerpts of the current voting
tion has a number of potential benefits. Curric- legislation. The students vote two days before the
ular projects can instigate discussion and media actual elections, and use the final week to debate
use at home, inform students on party ideolo- about the differences between the simulated and
gies and differences on a number of issues, and actual results.
invite them to take a critical view of information The project provided a reciprocal relationship
sources. Learning experiences such as these can between investigators and secondary school teach-
act as scaffolding for future learning about the po- ers. The researchers provided student workbooks,
litical sphere. Furthermore, debate on voting as a teacher guides, and ballots and other official-like
civic duty may develop a sense of responsibility election materials, designed based on real life ex-
and, in turn, have positive effects on prospective amples. In turn, the teachers provided constant
voting opportunities. feedback previous to, during, and after the im-
Casting a mock vote could also potentially have plementation of the materials in their classrooms.
an added side effect of promoting habitual voting Participating teachers were encouraged to attend
turnout. Recent studies like that of Dinas (2012), a small number of sessions for training, question
who traced participants over decades, show that answering, discussion, and a final session for pro-
early voting experiences shape future voting hab- viding their project feedback and student ques-
its. Furthermore, Obradovic and Masten (2007) tionnaires.
provide evidence that suggests that civic engage- Based on the initial pilot project, and the analy-
ment is a behavior acquired during adolescence. sis of teacher and student comments, the materials
The empirical literature shows us that, in general, were revised and adapted for the 2014 European
voting is habit-forming; if an individual votes in parliamentary elections. The more recent Apre-
one election, it is much more likely that he or nem a votar multiclass simulation was designed
she will vote in subsequent elections (Blais, 2000; for its incorporation into the curriculum over the
Campbell, 2006; Denny & Orla, 2009; Franklin, course of five weeks before, during, and immedi-
2004; Gerber, Green & Shachar, 2003; Goerres, ately following the 2014 European elections. Given
2007; Plutzer, 2002). Future studies might deter- that most participants are 13-15 at the time they
mine whether or not mock elections in schools participate in the project, almost all of them will
have similar habit-forming effects later on in life. be eligible to vote in the European parliamentary
elections planned for 2019.
An example initiative: Catalonia’s
Aprenem a votar, or Let’s Learn to Vote Conclusions and future prospects
Aprenem a votar was launched as a pilot Most educators and stakeholders agree that a more
project in 30 secondary schools throughout knowledgeable electorate equals higher-quality
the Barcelona province and ran parallel to citizen participation. Given the promising results
the actual 2010 Parliamentary campaign and of active, teaching-through-doing learning activ-
elections in Catalonia. The project was aimed at ities in civics classes, and open debate on relevant
1500 secondary students, aged 14-15, although issues, it seems reasonable to expand educational
a number of schools decided to extend aspects initiatives like Aprenem a votar and other student
of the project to other age groups. Teachers voting simulation units throughout classrooms in
dedicated between 10 and 15 hours of classroom all democracies. Knowledge of political institu-
instruction immediately prior and following the tions allows individuals to make more informed
official Parliamentary elections in Catalonia. The decisions and to better process political infor-
materials emphasized higher-order thinking and mation cumulatively (Popkin & Dimock, 1999).
included active, hands-on activities using case Moreover, in order for democracy to function
method activities, news attention, cooperative properly its voters need to have sufficient knowl-
learning, group problem solving, reflection, edge of political parties and leaders to allow for
and debate. Students learned about the different comparison with their own political preferences
political parties and their respective agendas and to know how to determine the credibility of

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THE PRACTICE OF VOTING AS INTANGIBLE HERITAGE: AN EXERCISE WORTH CULTIVATING

their commitments (Milner, 2002). Education ini- heritage could provide a platform for which mul-
tiatives, such as those outlined in the latter section ticlass mock elections programs run parallel to
of this article, not only have the potential to edu- actual campaigns could be promoted and shared.
cate participants on the intricacies of the election It could potentially provide a platform for which
process, but also to walk them step by step through materials could be adapted, experimented, and
the voting process. Knowledge acquired during disseminated in a variety of contexts, thus pro-
activities carried out around mock elections run moting, in a small way through schools, healthy
parallel to actual campaigns could potentially act democratic practices internationally.
as scaffolding for understanding the complexities In places like Catalonia, educational initia-
of future campaigns as new information becomes tives such as Aprenem a votar may be of special
available to participants. By teaching through do- relevance due to the large number of parties vot-
ing, Aprenem a votar, and similar programs, aim ers have to choose from; this May, student vot-
to make students feel more prepared and knowl- ers choose from 41 lists of candidates to the Eu-
edgeable about voting in hopes that they will be ropean Parliament. Elections to the Catalan and
more likely to vote in future elections given that Spanish parliaments require voters to choose from
voting seems to have habit-forming attribute. Vot- similarly high numbers of candidates. Also, recent
ing in one election may lead to a life-long voting waves of immigration have brought first genera-
habit, especially important in youth. Educational tion and second generation newcomers to class-
initiatives that invite high school students to learn rooms whose parents did not grow up in a democ-
about candidates and follow actual campaigns racy and who were never given the chance to vote.
alongside their peers and family members, and Thus, initiatives such as this could work to close a
in which they cast their own mock vote, seem to gap in the degree to which immigrant background
be a positive impetus responsible for initiating the students participate in Catalonia’s political sphere.
habit of voting among youth. One reason both Aprenem a votar initiatives have
Declines in democracy worldwide may point focused on 14 and 15 year olds (4rt d’eso) is be-
to a need for “safeguarding” the practice of vot- cause this is the last year of compulsory schooling.
ing, as well as other forms of political participa- As Levinson (2010) points out, not all citizenry
tion, through active, hands-on educational ini- participation in politics occurs at equal levels; a
tiatives. The unesco concept of safeguarding is wide engagement gap exists in that marginalized
aimed at ensuring the viability of the intangible groups are less likely to participate politically.
cultural heritage, including promotion and trans- Student and teacher comments, discussion
mission, particularly through formal and non-for- groups and classroom observation suggest that
mal education (2003). A campaign for the recog- Aprenem a votar had a positive impact on stu-
nition of voting and other forms of political partic- dent learning and positive perception of the util-
ipation as intangible cultural heritage could act as ity of voting and/or other forms of political partic-
an impetus for widespread education initiatives in ipation. However, it is important that the practi-
democratic countries, which would aid in facilitat- cal goals and long-term learning outcomes of this
ing access to practical information on the election project, as well as other similar projects, be fur-
process and introduction to the intricacies of the ther assessed, as well as the long-term effects on
information available in the political sphere. Rel- inviting a habit of voting. Although the results of
evant literature, as outlined in this article, identi- the 2010 pilot were encouraging (see Prats & Wil-
fies the need for civic education programs in sec- son, 2013; Aznar García, 2012), the Aprenem a vo-
ondary school, at earlier stages in an individual’s tar initiative has yet to be empirically evaluated.
life. unesco stresses that education and aware- The authors and other members of the dhigecs
ness-raising of intangible cultural heritage are key research group are currently experimenting the
to safeguarding intangible heritage and places par- Aprenem a votar 2014 European Parliament elec-
ticular emphasis on the safeguarding of intangible tions, both though pre and post-test quantitative
heritage through the use of information and com- methods with experimental and control groups,
munication technologies, its promotion and trans- and student and teacher focus groups, in order to
mission to younger generations, and to research evaluate the potential of their current proposal.
(see unesco, 2003, Article 14). Unesco recogni- The knowledge gains of immigrant background
tion of political participation as intangible cultural students will also be specifically assessed.

HER&MUS 15 [VOLUMEN VI, NÚMERO 1I], OCTUBRE-NOVIEMBRE 2014, PP. 38-47 45


MONOGRAFÍAS ANN ELIZABETH WILSON | ELVIRA BARRIGA UBED | JOAQUIM PRATS CUEVAS

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