Public Schools Voter Registration Drive

Oct 4, 2016 by

At a time when many eligible voters have been so turned off by the electoral process, the parties and the candidates, and have joined the many who for years have already opted-out from participating in their holy obligation at the ballot box, a previously untapped resource of 20,000 pre-jaded public school students who will be of age to “pull the lever” in the November presidential sweepstakes will be signed up on the second annual Voter Registration Day, if the city Campaign Finance Board meets its goal.

That’s was ambition target, as last year, only 2,000 students from 25 schools were registered to vote. This year the number of schools has more than doubled, however, and the results show that the reach-out has borne fruit.
There are people who do not support this project. Their declared reason is that it is not appropriate to use public schools for this purpose.  Their actual unstated objection is that there is an implicit partisanship predicated on the demographics of public school students. These same critics, on the other hand, tend to favor the presence of military recruiters in the schools.

It’s one thing to sign up graduates to join the ranks of the electorate; quite another to join the ranks of the Marines. Apparently they feel that a line must be drawn somewhere. What suits them is suitable; what does not is unbecoming, they think. What hampers proponents of all philosophies is the common  inability or refusal  to think through issues calmly and objectively.

In my own high-school “Problems of American Democracy” class, back in the 60s, we had some knock-down, drag-out verbal battles about the Vietnam War and civil rights:  Should we “bomb them into the stone age” or “cut and run.”? Which is the greater voice for freedom,–Martin Luther King Jr. or Malcolm X?

We debated passionately but also lucidly. We were taught debating techniques that hardly any  of our presidential aspirants displayed.
There was no physical violence, only the clash of ideas, and when “PAD” was over, the turbulent seas of argument were once again placid and there were no riptides in the hallways.

Today’s students have not been much exposed much to  intellectual conditioning, including “devil’s advocacy”. Rigid curriculum ad political interference forbid it. Controversial speech or unpopular thoughts are hazardous to students and teachers if expressed openly in today’s climate.

Is the voter registration in our public schools a “chicken before the egg” or “cart before the horse” kind of thing?  Shouldn’t young citizens first learn to think before they are enfranchised to vote?

In 2016 that may not be necessary.

Ron Isaac


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