Restricted Voting

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An opinion writer in the Wall Street Journal says that lowering the voting age to 18 during the Vietnam War era was a mistake. It should go back to 21.

His logic, if you can use that term for this essay, begins with his assessment that “adolescents today are dramatically unprepared to vote”. Considering the results of the last presidential election, many much older folks are also “dramatically unprepared” (or don’t vote at all).

Anyway, he then goes on to blame that lack of preparedness on the American educational system (of course), but also draws in an amazing swath of society.

The U.S. has been painfully slow to clean up the wreckage of its 1960s cultural revolution, which knocked everything to the ground and caused crazy cracks everywhere. We have been living in this mess for half a century. Our schools and colleges are biased and teach poorly, but we don’t change them. Most of our cultural institutions, from movies and TV to newspapers, concert halls and museums, are biased, but we don’t change them. Even our churches and synagogues are often politically warped, but are seldom changed. Voting at 18 is only a minor leftover of the Stupid Age, but a new constitutional amendment could fix it.

I wonder if this writer, who is identified as a professor of computer science at Yale, would acknowledge that the organization publishing his thoughts, The Wall Street Journal, is also “biased” and not at all likely to change. Probably not.

However, his complaints are old news, many recycled from that “wreckage” of the 60’s. Conservative pundits like the professor have been moaning about the so-called bias in American “cultural institutions” since long before the 26th Amendment.

Conservatives don’t understand (or ignore) that most of the creative types who choose to work in the arts, and many of us attracted to teaching, have, for the most part, a “bias” towards being caring, open-minded, and forward-thinking. I doubt that’s going to change.

Anyway, his proposal should be a non-starter. In fact, there’s a good case to be made for lowering the voting age to 16, while at the same time, putting more resources into helping students better understand both the mechanics of government and their place in making it work.

There certainly is no justification for raising it.


Cartoon is by Washington Post editorial cartoonist Tom Toles.

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