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).
Everyone is ignorant. At some point in our lives, and about some, probably many, subjects.
Learning is about reducing that ignorance. It’s why we have schools and teachers and mentors and books.
And if we are not interested in learning about a particular topic, that’s ok too.
The problem comes when we form an opinion on a particular topic while still largely ignorant about that topic.
It gets even worse when someone is in a position to make public policy decisions around that topic while still largely ignorant about it.
This is why we have experts. Traditionally, society asks select people who have studied a subject in depth to then explain it to the rest of us. We trust them to be complete and accurate. We have to.
For example, I certainly have never studied climate science. I took some 101-type science classes in high school and college. But my basic understanding of how climate works is based on reading works by scientists (more often, science explainers) who know much more than I do.
As a result, I rely on the fact that the work of an overwhelming number of experts in this field say climate change is happening, it will be a serious threat to the world, and there are things that can be done to at least slow it down.
However, at the moment our country is being led by people who are ignorant of basic scientific principles. Who express a mistrust for scientists, reject their expertise, and make policy based instead on “common sense” and “gut feelings”.1
And it doesn’t stop with climate science.
The political party currently in control of the US government is built around the economic “faith” that cutting taxes for the rich will “trickle down” to the rest of us. Despite a half century or more of evidence to the contrary. Their leaders also propose legislation based on dubious claims about immigration, public education, poverty, voter fraud, and more with little or no supporting data.
Now, I have no issue with people holding their own private misunderstanding of the world and accepting all kinds of conspiracies. Those who think the world is flat can talk to each other all they like. If you want to believe aliens built the pyramids, so be it.
But personal ignorance is one thing. Turning that ignorance into public policy harms everyone, even the ignorant.
November 6, two weeks from today, is your next opportunity to push back against ignorance.
Removing legislators, at all levels, who want to make laws based on their personal ignorance is one of the best reasons I can think of to vote.
Image: a sign at the March for Science, Melbourne, Australia, April 22, 2017. Photograph by John Englart, linked from Wikipedia Commons, and used under a Creative Commons license.
1. Which is possibly me being generous in ascribing their motives. It could be simple fear of change or complex greed.