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All content © 2002-2005 Anne Zook

May 04, 2004
It's still May 4.

Someone sent me this link culled from a series CNN is doing on issues and colleges in this election year.

In reference to protesting against the war in Iraq:

"I would never get involved. I don't think it's safe, for one thing. I care, but I guess I don't care enough. There's a way to express yourself without getting arrested," said Anderson.

Jessica Anderson attends Kent State and we hope that her way to express herself was writing to her representatives or protesting at the ballot box, but we can't be sure.

As the article points out, it took years of Vietnam before students (and others) began to mobilize and protest in large numbers. Maybe the point will come home to this generation when a draft notice is suddenly staring them in the eye in a couple of months. (Or do they still give deferments to college students?) We hope not, of course. No one could want to stay in Iraq long enough to create another Vietnamn disaster.

Tony Cox, the president of the College Republicans at Kent State, said some members got involved in protests individually.

"As time wore on, individuals saw the need to speak up and speak out," Cox said. "It's fine to criticize your leaders, but during a time of crisis you've got to realize that the decisions were made, and whether you like it or not, there's not much you can do about it."

Sean Buchanan, president of the College Democrats at Kent State, said anti-war protests succeeded in raising doubts about the war but said the inevitability of the war was depressing.

"We could have had every single student in this country walk out of class on campus, and it wouldn't have changed the policy," he said. "I think students feel that way. 'Why should I get up early in the morning, risk getting arrested, risk losing my financial aid, if no one cares anyhow?'"

I keep coming back to those two statements, one from each side of the political spectrum. The students believe that if millions of them had walked in protest "it wouldn't have changed the policy."

I think that says more about the Bush Administration, or at least how indifferent to public voter opinion the Bush Administration is than anything else.

I'm also dismayed that they equate a peaceful (one presumes) walk-out or protest march with an automatic arrest.

Chris Wido, a sophomore and Air Force veteran, said he does not have time to express his strong political views in organizations because of his work schedule. But he did take time from class Monday to participate in the "Smackdown Your Vote!" forum and rally in the Student Center plaza, during which he questioned funding for the war.

People in his age group, he said, "are too caught up with what's going on in their own personal lives. People would rather read about what Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez are up to than [President] Bush."

I think we're seeing cause-and-effect here. If students believed their opinions mattered, if they believed their votes counted, they'd care. If they even believed that millions of them, acting in concert, could make a difference, maybe some of their apathy would disappear?

For some reason, these young adults don't see the connection between the ballot box and their worries about jobs, families, and futures.

Who do we blame for this?

Am I the only one who was required to attend "civics" classes at intervals during the K-12 years?

Posted by AnneZook at 02:25 PM


Civics has been phased out by the need to pass mandated tests. Civics and American History are now optional courses in many areas of the US so schools can pass the FCAT, or what ever stupid test a state may have.

It doesn't apparently occur to politicians that if you require students to read, they might get better at reading. Instead they are required to practice reading tests about reading.

At the end of this latest experiment we will have student qualified to take tests and nothing else.

Posted by: Bryan at May 4, 2004 08:28 PM

It was my understanding that the focus on teaching to past standardized tests was more something that had started in the last few years. If that's so, it doesn't explain why a 20 year-old has no concept of civic duty.

Maybe they started it fifteen years ago. Being childless, I wouldn't have noticed. :)

Posted by: Anne at May 4, 2004 10:14 PM

Government was required in HS, but it wasn't exactly a ringing endorsement of participatory democracy, as I recall it, but a pretty clinical description of the essential components of the system. My retired-cop HS Law teacher did more, in that regard, than the rest of the social studies faculty combined. The Great Books Club was good, too: you can't read Walden and Socrates' Apology and Crito, and stuff like that without getting a little engaged.

Now, US History is becoming this triumphalist thing (actually, they want to add it to the No Child Left Untested repetoire, but they don't want to touch the politics of historical selectivity until the election is more behind them than in front of them), but participatory democracy is dying.

Posted by: Jonathan Dresner at May 6, 2004 03:31 AM

"The politics of historical selectivity"

Now that's a blog entry worth reading. (Hint. Hint.)

Posted by: Anne at May 6, 2004 12:53 PM