Education before registration

Education before registration

Kyler Effner, staff


Ever since I can remember, I have been fascinated and enthralled by the idea of voting.  I was elated that at some point in my life, I would be able to make a decision that would hopefully better my country and the world.

I remember my home being very open to the thoughts and opinions of me and my siblings as children.  Our mother never shied away from allowing us to create our own political opinions, even at a young age.

Maybe it was the way she would play the debates for us or the live election results every four years, but I found myself counting down the time until I, too, could use my voice.

However, most people have vastly different experiences, that unfortunately, have resulted in many young Americans not participating in important elections or not even registering to vote at all.

Indiana has an incredibly low voter registration rate amongst young people, and while effects of that may not appear now, they certainly will impact elections in the future.

The young 18 to 24-year-olds offer a new perspective and outlook, but without their voices, those opinions and thoughts never get shared and certainly will not make it to see Congress or the Oval Office.

One effort the state could take to vastly enhance young voter registration and turnout would be to improve education on the subject earlier in students’ school careers.  

According to an article written by Rajiv Vinnakota of the IndyStar, “The federal government spends around 5 cents per student annually on civics. By comparison, the federal government spends about $50 per student on STEM.”

Investing more into children’s science knowledge than the education that impacts the country on a federal level creates a disproportionate number of valued, informed citizens who can make critical and imperative decisions.

One of the many reasons for my early interest in the government and how I could make an impact was due to my mother’s investment in raising children to be aware of their civic responsibility.  That is not true for many, if not most, young people.

The start of a well-informed and highly participatory nation is the education that fosters those ideals and ideas.  Without informing teens about how their voice matters, the country is at a disadvantage when those voters become old enough to put their choices in the ballot box.

Civics education is provided via a leaky faucet in most schools, when instead they should be hooking up the future voters of America to an intravenous supply of resources to better help them become involved.

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines civics education as “all the processes that affect people’s beliefs, commitments, capabilities, and actions as members or prospective members of communities.”

Creating an environment in schools that is more open to discussing these ideas could prove very beneficial for students and help them to make educated voting decisions in the future.

However, if students do not even know what makes an educated decision, let alone the impact it has on their community, then they certainly are not going to be interested in using their vote at all.

Only 25% of U.S. students reach a standard level of proficiency on the NAEP Civics Assessment, according to the National Education Association.

With this limited awareness of how American communities and the nation functions, why is there an expectation for young people to even show up on election day at all?

The reason so many young, eligible voters are not registering to vote is because they lack the sufficient schooling that teaches them their choice holds vital importance. 

In order to get more young people voting, schools and the federal government have to allow them to understand why they should.  Many people do not come out to the polls because they are convinced their opinion does not make a difference.

With civics education, letting young voters know they matter may just be the key to getting them to drive out on voting day and finally cast their ballot.

Before reprimanding the many young people who are not visiting the polls, America should first allow them to receive the education that provides them with a reason to vote.