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    Washington Times: Youth Vote Ignorant

    Today, syndicated columnist Suzanne Fields published an editorial in the Washington Times bashing young voters, citing a post I wrote on this blog a few days ago.

    Titling her column “Rock the Ignorance,” Fields first ridicules Obama, Clinton, and McCain for reaching out to young voters, and then:

    “That all sounds good, but we’ve got to hope these younger voters know enough to understand what the debate is about. The young have been short-changed by the educationists for decades, not learning very much. The millenials, the under 30s, grew up reprising the lyrics of “Don’t Know Much About History.”"

    Apparently, we’re all too ignorant to vote, is the premise here. And what’s more:

    “How much they don’t know about Middle Eastern politics is especially worrisome. Are they even prepared to understand what President Bush was talking about last week, when he told the Israeli Knesset, “Some seem to believe we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along?”"

    Now, I’m not going to argue about textbook reform, which is the main point of the rest of the column. I haven’t been in school in eight years and don’t have kids, so can’t claim expertise on that issue.

    But I’m very much going to take issue with the idea that young adults are too ignorant to grasp the big issues of the day. Given that today’s 18-29 year olds are the most educated generation in American history, are reading the news at increasing levels, have access to the Internet and its vast resources in growing numbers, and are getting involved in issues and politics in ways we’ve not seen in decades – I’d say we’re doing an OK job of being informed.

    And speaking as the “young voter” (I’m 30) who wrote the post – I am well aware of the significance of the Knesset speech. I’m well aware that what happened at the Knesset was a remarkable departure from a 60-year-old standard originally agreed to by two venerable Americans, President Harry S. Truman and Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg, to keep foreign policy criticisms between elected officials within our shores. As noted in a column in The Hill:

    “It is a tradition for a sitting president not to confuse partisan politics with foreign policy. We can have intense debates within our borders, but we don’t carry them overseas. We especially do not air our partisanship in a politically charged atmosphere, such as the Israeli Knesset, where it may well inflame passions in the complex and dangerous environment of the Middle East. Yet that is exactly what President Bush did.”

    Speaking as one young(ish) voter, I can assure the columnist I get the importance of what happened last week. And I also get that foreign policy is complicated and that politics can be complicated. And I get that there are troubles in how our education system prepares us to understand these things.

    But please don’t use my generation as the scapegoat. American democracy is founded on the amazing idea that “We the people” should be the voice of government. Of course we’re not all scholars and none of us is perfect, but I believe in my heart of hearts that “we the people” is the best form of government in the world. That it’s the good sense of American voters – young, old, and in between – that makes our country great and one of which we should be incredibly proud.

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    Email the author at: blog(at)rockthevote.com

    4 Responses to “Washington Times: Youth Vote Ignorant”

    1. Kevin Bondelli says:

      The fact that she rails on Millennials about this only a week after Chris Matthews exposes conservative pundit Kevin James for not knowing that Neville Chamberlain gave Hitler the Sudetenland is astounding.

      There are voters of all generations that are familiar with the history of the Middle East and those that are not. She seems not to be familiar enough about the research on Gen Y to know about the increased knowledge of civic issues. Perhaps she is not qualified to write editorials.

    2. Night Hawk says:

      Of course, an editorial is merely a fancy name for an “opinion piece.” I can understand Ms. Field’s comments regarding youth voters very well. When one peruses the “rock the vote” website, the clear indication is that it is very biased in a particular direction. I personally hate to look at political leanings as either right or left. However, using contemporary “trends” in describing politics, “Rock the Vote” is decidedly “Extremely left leaning.” This is done without even mentioning candidates involved in the race.

      Ms. Fields’ editorial, while abrasive, is inherently true. The majorit of youths today do lack the ability to truely make a rational decision based upon the facts of the matter. While they may consume much more numerous quantities of news, that news is filtered through very little reasoning. The capacity of many people raised within the education system of the last few decades for reason and rationality is severely hindered. The “educationists” that were mentioned in the piece have done a thorough job of dismantling the process of rational thought in most of the “arts” fields of study and have begun making significant strides in the science fields as well. This can be clearly evidenced in the politisization of the “global warming debate.” That very debate has abandoned true science for the “religion” of politics. The primary reason for their success is due to the failure of the education of today’s (and yesterday’s) youth. Reason and rationality are no longer involved in education. Rote memorization and regurgitation is expected. So, as you pointed out, the youths of today do consume much more news and “political” literature, unfortunately, few of them have the mental wherwithal to maintain an objective understanding of it.

    3. Kevin Bondelli says:

      Nighthawk, I challenge your premise that young people are less informed and objective than prior generations because of filtered news.

      The dramatically decreased cost of publishing information has improved the ability of people to find objective information. When radio and newspapers were the only forms of information consumption, people were broadcasted news from the very few sources that could afford to publish on those mediums. The advent of television increased the number of sources, yet still only the wealthiest businesses could afford to own a station. The internet, which the Millennial generation uses more adroitly than any other, shatters the barriers between publisher and consumer, allowing anyone with an internet connection to produce content.

      There is more information available today that is widely and easily accessible than any other time in the history of the world. During the TV era, news consumers had no choice but to hear data filtered through the stations and news anchors. In the internet era the data itself is a Google search away. While you say young people are unable to make a rational decision based upon the facts because the “news is filtered through very little reasoning,” you ignore the fact that Millennials know how to find the raw data online better than any other generation.

      I also wonder how only young voters are affected by your perceived lack of unfiltered news. Unless a person magically gains a transcendent understanding of the truth in their 30s, it does not make any sense.

      While I am 100% with you that the education style of rote memorization and rote learning is antithetical to truly learning, today’s education system is not all that different than that of the prior few generations. The advantage the Millennial generation has is the ability to engage in self-learning with the use of the internet.

      I find your claim that the vast majority of young people do not “have the mental wherwithal [sic] to maintain an objective understanding” completely ageist, and the implication that young people are inherently mentally incapable of understanding anything is slanderously false.

    4. Ian Magruder says:

      Well said Kat. Thanks for standing up for all young Americans.