Why Education Matters in Voting
Updated: Jul 18, 2019
Throughout the past several U.S. elections, especially in the wake of the 2016 Presidential election, there has been much discussion about the importance of voter mobilization, particularly for young people. This means that there has been a staunch effort to “get people out to the polls”, and become more politically involved regardless of their political affiliation. While this is an important factor, there is also something to be said for ensuring that those people who are getting out to the polls are also well-informed and well-prepared to cast their vote and fulfill their civic duty within our democracy. We are not born knowing how to be politically involved. As Valerie Strauss of The Washington Post points out: “A healthy democracy needs well-informed, active citizens. But these citizens don’t just magically appear. People learn citizenship. They learn it, for example, as children when they go the polling place to watch their parents vote. They learn it advocating for an issue they care about with their neighbors. They learn it by doing it” (Strauss 2018).
As of March 2018, more Americans had college degrees than ever before in history. However, in a culture where millions of people live in student debt, formal education remains a privilege, and not a right. It is worth noting that the Democratic party has a roughly 2:1 ratio to the Republican party in terms of percentage of party identifiers who hold college degrees, and has become the political centralization of academia. The Republican party, by contrast, has become a refuge for many working-class Americans without higher education. While it is important to look towards experts (those with doctorate degrees and extensive professional experience) for factual information and plausible political theory, it is also not required for an American to be formally educated in order to vote thoughtfully and in the best interest of the country. Disagreements are natural, healthy, and omnipresent within the political sphere. Constructive debate occurs when two parties are well-informed on a topic, are aware of the positioning of the opposing side, and are able to discuss their juxtaposing opinions through the use of fact and logic. Our current hostile political climate has caused large amounts of outrage, violence, and division throughout our country -- Much of which is stemming from people feeling anger towards the continued injustices they feel. However, much of this hostility on both sides can be diffused through fact-checking, education, and increased awareness.
As mentioned above, formal education and the capability to receive information from educated experts is a privilege that not all Americans have access to -- Such as low-income people, people of color, and disabled people. However, civic education can be separate from a formal university education (or even a high school social studies education). Individual communities and our country as a whole should put more money and resources into political education materials, such as free community classes, easy-access literature, visual aids, etc. These programs should be specifically targeted towards vulnerable or marginalized groups, and should be available through a variety of languages and mediums. Voting members of communities, as well as young people who are interested, should be able to learn about our government systems and positions, the electoral college, factual statistics on labor, education, healthcare, civil rights, etc. without having to shell out tens of thousands of dollars each year in tuition. In this way, we would be evening out the playing field for our country’s voting system, ensuring that all voters are at least well-informed enough of the indisputable facts to form their own opinions, and we would then allow the democracy to speak for itself.
By Megan Sadorus
Harris, Adam. “America Is Divided by Education.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 7 Nov. 2018, www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2018/11/education-gap-explains-american-politics/575113/.
Scott, Eugene. “As Americans Become More Educated, the GOP Is Moving in the Opposite Direction.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 21 Mar. 2018, www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2018/03/21/as-americans-become-more-educated-the-gop-is-moving-in-the-opposite-direction/?utm_term=.eaf8dd6b0e85.
Strauss, Valerie. “Many Young People Don't Vote Because They Never Learned How. Here's a Free Class Now in Schools Trying to Change That.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 20 Sept. 2018, www.washingtonpost.com/education/2018/09/20/many-young-people-dont-vote-because-they-never-learned-how-heres-free-class-now-schools-trying-change-that/?utm_term=.5023ad84ebcf.