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The nation’s oldest, largest, and most successful voter education project ...

Rooted in Education: The Founding of the National Student/Parent Mock Election

Gloria Kirshner and Edward Stanley made a prolific pair in the 1960s: the two created "Exploring" on NBC, a nationwide broadcast of the elementary school curriculum in language arts, social studies, math, and science.

"Exploring" was a hit: over 600,000 teachers asked for the series Teachers Guide. Stanley, Director of Public Affairs for NBC, and Kirshner, an educational consultant, knew they had something substantial.

But the two quickly noticed that social studies teachers, especially those attempting to teach civics and government, were direly unprepared. In fact, coaches and math teachers were taking on civics courses at the middle and high school levels.

Kirshner and Stanley both realized these poorly prepared children -- and their children’s children -- would soon determine the destiny of the world’s longest-lasting democracy. Their inferior education about democracy could very well threaten our political system’s integrity.

"Enlighten the people generally", Thomas Jefferson wrote, "and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day". Stanley and Kirshner were inspired by this quote and spent 10 years seeking a solution.

Eventually, the two connected with such legendary education leaders as Dr. Benjamin Bloom, Dr. Lawrence Kohlberg, and Dr. Arthur W. Foshay. The experts helped Kirshner and Stanley develop a project titled the NBC Parent Participation TV Workshop Project.

The first-ever National Student/Parent Mock Election (NSPME) in 1980, as part of this project, had students and parents in 30 states casting votes. Presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford become Honorary Chairs along with an influential Board of Advisors of governors, ambassadors, senators, congressmen, high elected officials, and C-level corporate executives. NSPME became the leading organization working with the National Association of Secretaries of States in promoting registration and the importance of voting. 

In 1988, Ambassador Ramon Barquin led the push to internationalize NSPME and nurture the Hispanic communities under the Instituto de Formacion Democratica. Dr. Ramon Barquin II, a senior global executive at IBM, joined the Board of Directors and later his son, also managing operations. In 2016, Dr. Ramon Barquin III took over the leadership as Chairman of the Board of Directors.

By 1984, 2 million were participating; by 1988, 5 million with CNN and C-SPAN broadcasting Election Day events live. In 2000, a general election over 12 million participated with Microsoft as the lead technology partner and CNN was the Command Center on Election Night. In 2004, AOL become the lead technology sponsor and Google in 2008, enabling million of students to drive mock election activities online. In 2012, Pearson enabled the launch of NSPME's My Voice. In 2016 and 2020, Win My Vote enabled the transition of students to vote online using computers, tablets, and phones under the National Student Vote and National Student Mock Election (www.2020NSME.com). In 2022, a midterm election year, the NSPME expects to involve 1 to 2 million and by 2024 participation is expected to reach 6 million people once again.

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