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Education Matters: Election spawns discontentment

November 05, 2010|By Dan Kimber

Editor's Note: Numerous instances of plagiarism have been discovered in Dan Kimber’s “Education Matters” column, which ran in the News- Press from September 2003 to September 2011. In those columns where plagiarism has been found, a For the Record specifying the details will be appended to the piece.

I substituted in a government class this week on election day, and the first question I asked a group of kids that will be eligible to vote within a year was: "If you were casting a ballot today for governor, raise your hand if you would vote for Meg." In each of the five classes I covered, one or two hands went up. It was the same result when I asked how many would vote for Jerry.

"May I conclude then that the great majority of you either don't know anything about the candidates or don't care?" I asked.


Most nodded their heads, leaving me to wonder whether passage of the 26th Amendment (18-year-olds can vote) was such a good idea. But then I thought about the months of campaigning prior to the election, and it occurred to me that there's a very good reason for the apathy among our youth.

They've heard us older folks complain about the barrage of negative attacks by candidates, about the mindless mailers and obnoxious automated phone calls and the general consensus that political dialogue in this country has degenerated into well-financed campaigns of lies and distortions.

Why participate in such a process?

As a teacher, I've tried for years to get my students to wade through the garbage piled high by each side in our political contests and try to discern actual positions in the rare moments of candor and honest exchange of views. Even if their choice of candidates is, as it has so often become, a lesser of two evils, it is far better than withdrawing from a process that is the very essence of our democracy.

For years I've believed that the poor voting record among our youngest voters was more due to laziness than any other factor, but I'm not so sure anymore. We older voters have become jaded about elections and more or less accept the degeneration of the whole electoral process as business as usual.

We know we're being lied to, we accept negative campaigning — in fact we sometimes encourage it by eagerly tuning in to the hear about the newest dirt that has been dug up on an opponent — and we're even OK with having our intelligence insulted.

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