Promoted from the diaries by streiff. Promotion does not imply endorsement.
(AP Photo/Steve Karnowski)
Several of the multitude of knuckle-walkers vying for the right to take on President Trump in 2020 have suggested lowering the voting age to 16 from its current 18. As was mentioned in a previous article, nothing prevents individual states from lowering the legal voting age to 16. Previous to the Constitutional amendments that granted women the right to vote and lowering the voting age from 21 to 18, many states had already done so. The amendments simply made it mandatory in all states.
In the US House, Ayanna Presley (D-MA) has proposed just such an amendment. However, the bigger question is whether that is a good idea. It is ironic that we treat people like children until they are 21 when it comes to alcohol, tobacco and firearms (in some states), but suddenly they are adults when it comes to voting.
If one reads the pablum from the National Youth Rights Association, they list ten “good reasons” to lower the voting age to 16. Both numbers 7 and 8 are telling. Reason #8 states “There are no wrong votes. In a democracy, we don’t deny people the vote because we think they might vote badly…No advocate for lowering the voting age believes that young people will always vote intelligently, especially since not everyone can agree on what that means.” Actually, there are wrong votes and secondly, we live in a Republic. The only thing they get right is the belief “young people will always vote intelligently.”
Reason #7 is even more amusing: “Knowledge and experience are not criteria for voting eligibility. Even though young people can be as politically informed as older people…” Maybe “knowledge and experience” are not criteria for voting, but perhaps they should be. Maybe…just maybe knowledge and experience help make people better informed voters.
The reasons for these proposals by Democrats is simple: they see more votes for Democratic candidates since younger people tend to vote that way. The same motivation guides their immigration and “pathway to citizenship” proposals.
In 2014, a test was administered to over 9,000 8th grade students that was designed to gauge their civics knowledge and skills. Only 23% of students were considered “proficient” and a paltry 2% were rated as “advanced.” That same year, over 11,000 8th grade students took a test in US history. There, only 18% were proficient and only 1% advanced.
There is no reason to believe that they will get better with a high school education because a similar test administered to over 12,000 high school seniors showed that only 12% were scored proficient in history and 24% in civics. The trend in these tests, given every four years nationally, have been pretty consistently bad over the years. There is hope on the horizon either.
These are multiple choice tests. In the most recent administration of the test, less than half of the students tested knew what the Bill of Rights was and fewer could name two rights guaranteed. Only 10% of those tested ever heard of the phrase “checks and balances.”
The underlying problem has nothing to do with the dedication of teachers or students when it comes to civics and US history education. The problem is that young students are never exposed to a vigorous and rigorous civics or US history curriculum. In the most populous state- California- only one-half of school year is dedicated to civics education and only one year of US history. Considering that two of those months are eaten up by the obligatory black history and women’s history curriculum, the problem becomes compounded.
According to Education Week, only 8 states require one year of civics and 31 states require one full year of US history. However, only 15 of those 31 states require students to take a US history exam. Ironically, even though only 8 states require civics, 19 states require a civics exam which begs the question, other than those 8 states, where are students learning civics?
Further, many states have specific curriculum or standards for civics education and 11 states that do require US history education for one year have no requirements for passing the very test they administer. All this evidence points to one very big problem: in today’s educational system, very little, if any, emphasis is placed on the teaching of civics and/or US history. The result is a cadre of students ill-informed, misinformed, or just plain ignorant and stupid. Regardless of lowering the voting age, students are denied the knowledge and skills necessary to be responsible citizens.
The biggest irony is that newly naturalized citizens from other countries are perhaps better informed about government, civics and US history than are students in the United States. That is a sad state of affairs.
It would be a much better idea to reinvigorate these subjects rather than lowering the voting age. The country would benefit and perhaps those who now currently have the right to vote would be more informed when they reach the age of 18 and would actually exercise that right. The age group 18-24 is notorious for low voter turnout, especially in non-Presidential years. It makes no sense to add more people to the list of registered non-voters who do not feel the need to put down the video game controller or cell phone and actually vote. It only makes sense as a silly idea searching for political traction.