In close elections, every vote counts. Young people fought to lower the voting age from 21 to 18, but the youngest voters have low voting rates.

Arthur Camins writes that schools must encourage a sense of civic responsility in their students, this, GE says, is more important than test scores. Perhaps we should judge schools by the voting rates of their graduates in the four years after they leave school, not their scores.

He begins:


Predictably, the releases of the recent ACT and SAT scores prompted the usual alarms and cautions. Maybe these results are cause for concern. However, something else about K-12 education is more alarming: Young people who graduate and do not vote.

At this time and in this moment, the most important outcome of PK-12 education is citizens who vote. We need an education system intentionally designed to engage students to understand their values, exercise sound moral judgment, learn how to evaluate evidence, and become effective citizens who vote. Over the long haul, that is what stands between the current political quagmire and an inevitable slide into further divisiveness, deeper inequity, and an authoritarian state. That, surely, is far more urgent than how well students perform on inappropriately used standardized tests.

We need classrooms designed to teach children to live together in peace and with justice in a diverse democracy. We need classrooms designed to teach students how to use democracy to change, rather than passively accept, unjust features of their society.

It will not happen in segregated schools. It will not happen in publically funded, but privately governed schools. It will not happen when educators maniacally focus on avoiding the punishment and public humiliation that comes with low-test scores. It will not happen when educators are distracted by competition with other schools for students.

That can only happen in a free public education system governed by voting citizens in local communities. It will happen when the nation systematically addresses the intentionally planned and enforced inequity and scarcity that undermines family security and tears apart the multiethnic fabric that is our core strength. It will happen when current and future citizen vote for it.

Schools in the U.S. are failing, but not in the way that advocates for test-driven accountability, charter schools, and vouchers claim. The evidence for failure is not found in the less-than-stellar average scores of U.S. students on state, or national, or international assessment measures. Such performance is not the harbinger of coming socioeconomic and social doom. The rhetoric notwithstanding, the US economic and social structure has not made room for every student to succeed. Unfortunately, schools in the U.S. do a terrific job of preparing our young people to live in and accept the world as it is.

The evidence for failure is people who do not vote and voters who accept rather than challenge the prevailing inequality, racism, hatred and environmental degradation that continues to plague the lives of far too many people. Those failures work well for the already privileged, but not so much for the rest of us. Sadly, our education system graduates far too many citizens who view themselves as people who must grudgingly accept an inequitable status quo rather than act as change agents. The result is debilitating cynicism that turns into anger and rage.