For the fifth most populous state in the country, we’re a fairly quiet people in terms of politics. Governor Rendell is seeking to end this trend by the implementation of a statewide voter-education program in high schools.
Already present in 17 Philadelphia high schools, Student Voices, a project through the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center, creates curriculum designed to educate urban youth about the government in a not-so-subtle attempt to urge them to vote. There is only one problem with this program: A majority of young adults simply aren’t interested in politics.
But forcing them to learn monotonous governmental facts won’t solve the problem.
Financed through a $500,000 grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Student Voices project in Pennsylvania will consist of a series of lessons focusing on the history of voting, how to register to vote, different methods of voting and why young people tend not to vote. The discussion of these topics, however useful, may also be redundant. It is pointless to tell young people why young people don’t vote. They’re already aware of why they don’t vote.
Citing students as immeasurably important to the electoral process, Rendell does have reason for concern. Following baby boomers, adults ages 15-19 are the most populous in the entire state. We are uninformed youth who are becoming uninformed adults. The common myths about votes not counting, our needs being unmet or our dissatisfaction with the candidates leaves us disconnected from reality.
Our needs are not met because we don’t let them be known to the people with influence and power – the sea of wealthy senior citizens in government positions.
Rendell justifies the Student Voices project in Pennsylvania by claiming that voting is part of being a citizen. By not voting, young adults are allowing baby boomers and senior citizens to control politics.
Politicians generally tend to cater only to their needs -or wants. Groups such as senior citizens, union workers and farmers are commonly known to vote as a block for a particular candidate. Yet today’s youth continue to vote in minimal numbers.
Instead of focusing on their dissatisfaction with the candidates, young adults should focus on change.
If you don’t want to see a particular candidate become reelected, it’s time for a change. People immigrate to America simply to have the freedoms that we take for granted, such as being able to vote in democratic elections.
Facing concerns about the economy and unemployment, our generation does have legitimate worries and uncertainties about the government. Until the youth of America decide to take an integral part in politics, their concerns will continue to be ignored in society.
Stephanie Young can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.