Are we lazy? Do we take too much for granted? According to the Federal Election Commission, voter turnout prior to 1970 was over 60% in presidential elections and around 50% in mid-term congressional elections. Since 1970 that rate has fallen to around 50% in presidential elections and under 40% in mid-term congressional elections (percentages = turnout / voting age population). Now for an admission: I thought it was lower. Maybe I’m a cynic after all.
So lets go where statistics have failed me. Lets go to the anecdotes. What do we as a population know? With budget cuts looming due to lack of funding, schools teach less in the name of “getting back to basics”. What has been the victim? Locally it has been the classes referred to as “electives”. Some musical courses, social sciences, and other miscellaneous classes have disappeared along with the seventh period that was eliminated locally ten years ago. Sure, those classes don’t effect literacy rates. They don’t effect SAT scores. They have little to do with drop-out rates. I would argue that they do have everything to do with rounding an individual. They teach things that students take an interest in; being classes that you don’t have to take they truly are “elective”.
I think eliminating these courses has two effects. First, it produces students who know less about the world. If knowledge is power, then having less of it necessarily means less power. Second, it saps student enthusiasm for school. An inspired, interested student is a student who is actively and enthusiastically involved in his or her education. Take that interest away and you have a student on the fast track to mediocrity, or worse.
So some signs point to a population that is becoming increasingly disinterested in the world around them, and our schools are eliminating the hooks that bring more of our youths into the educated fold. We seem to be a population moved by sound-bytes rather than an in depth discussion of an issue. “News” has degenerated into one more form of entertainment, in the name of the holy rating’s point. It’s all about, “what does our audience want to hear” rather than “what happened”. All the while it seems like many don’t really care anyway, and if they did there are fewer places to find out.
Ooh, I’m just dripping with optimism tonight. It’s time to put my cynicism away for the night.