CIRCLE has a post today exploring the difference in reasons college youth and non-college youth give for not voting.
Peter Levine notes that data about voting is notoriously suspect given its ambiguity and the potential for people to withhold their actual behavior.
However, we do see that college-attending non-voters attribute their lack of participation to not being home on Election Day, while their non-college-attending, non-voting peers cite a distrust that their vote will carry any impact.
Of course, the question I am left with is how do we get students to believe in the power of their vote, to commit to voting somewhere whether that’s at home or at college, and to actually do the deed. In a post on Monday articulating a ten point plan for renewal, Levine puts forth a vision for how we might start this work.
4. Prepare a new generation of active and responsible citizens. People form attitudes and habits related to civil society when they are young and keep them for the rest of their lives. But civic education has been cut in most school systems, and there are too few opportunities for young people to learn through service and extracurricular activities. Congress should revive the small Learn & Serve America program that provides competitive grants for service-learning, eliminated in 2011 after 21 years of work. Congress should also restore funding for civic education in schools (eliminated in 2011), but direct the funds to organizations that test or expand innovative educational methods and rigorously evaluate their impact. Meanwhile, the Office of Civic Education within the U.S. Department of Education should be elevated from its current low status (within the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools) and given a leadership role in coordinating the civic education functions of all federal agencies, including the National Parks Service, the national endowment for the humanities and the arts, the Defense Department, and Homeland Security.
Restoring Learn & Serve America moves us in the right direction, while increasing the power and visibility of the Office of Civic Education sends a message that civic education isn’t a joke. We need these steps, combined with many others, to build a foundation for our education system that cultivates civic responsibility among students. The problems in our society are large enough that we need as many people as possible–especially young people– to be on board and willing to make tough decisions and worthy contributions toward our future.