Friday, January 24, 2014

When Young People Don't Vote

by Duane Campbell
When young people don’t vote. The “Policy Experts”  Just Don’t Get It
I watched the Public Policy Institute  Sacramento Forum on the California Voter Turnout on January 23.  A series of speakers presented technical issues on why many Californians don’t vote- but they missed the big picture.
It is good that they studied the small issues, such as on-line voter registration.  However, as is clear, minority young people are not registering and voting at representative numbers.
The problem is that these young people have just completed 12 years of education in California schools where the curriculum and textbooks  tell that they don’t exist. The situation in California is as bad or worse than in Arizona and Texas. 
Latino and Asian American students have been absent from the curriculum since 1986. When the 48.72 % of students who are Latino , and the 11.5 % who are Asian do not see themselves as part of the community, as a part of  history,  for many their sense of self is marginalized.   Marginalization negatively impacts their connections with school, their success in school, and their commitment to  democratic institutions  such as voting and to a democratic society.
History classes  and textbooks  should help young people acquire and learn to use the skills, knowledge, and attitudes that will prepare them to be  find a good job and to be a competent and responsible  citizens, but they don’t.  

Many of these students live in  distressed and even destroyed neighborhoods.  Some face drug dealers and worry about getting shot. Their families struggle to survive economically- rationing their food stamps and working long hours on two or more jobs just to get by. Unemployment is a frightening specter.  The schools can not resolve these issues, but they can at least acknowledge them, study them, and help the students to develop survival strategies.
Instead, California textbooks and curriculum frameworks, along with inadequate teacher preparation and  standardized testing  produce a significant number of students marginalized from school and  the civic community- and they don’t vote.  

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