Election time is nearing and individuals young and old are making their list, checking it twice, and… deciding which candidates are worthy of support.
The younger generation is especially getting into the spirit of things, most recently evidenced by Taylor Swift’s endorsement of candidates in her home state.
Naturally, this surge of civic responsibility seems like a good thing. But are today’s young Americans equipped with the knowledge they need to make sound, sensible decisions in the voting booth?
I thought of this question while watching a new video segment from John Stossel. Stossel stepped away from the microphone for once and gave his place as host to young Gloria Álvarez, who explains her experience growing up in the shadow of democratic socialism. She explains:
“I’m from Guatemala. I’ve seen the impact of socialism.
My father escaped Cuba. My grandfather suffered under communists in Hungary before escaping. As a child, I was taught socialism was wrong. I grew up mocking it. But democratic socialism sounded okay. It made sense to me that government should take care of the economy.
But then I watched socialism fail in Latin America. I learned that every time a country started down the socialist path, it failed.”
Álvarez has had enough experience to recognize that democratic socialism isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, but many of her young American counterparts haven’t come to this conclusion. In fact, a new survey suggests the opposite.
In September of 2018, Maru/Blue and BuzzFeed News performed a random survey on the political views of young millennials ages 22 to 37. Particularly striking was the question on socialism, which asked young people whether they would call themselves “democratic socialist, a socialist or neither.”
A solid third responded by saying they would never identify with that label. However, another third of respondents were happy to identify with some facet of socialism. Perhaps even more revealing is the fact that a quarter of respondents pleaded ignorance, recognizing that they needed to know more about the viewpoint before claiming it as their own.
Where does such ignorance come from? Thomas Jefferson would likely suggest it stems from the minimal instruction today’s students receive in history:
“History, by apprising them of the past, will enable them to judge of the future; it will avail them of the experience of other times and other nations; it will qualify them as judges of the actions and designs of men; it will enable them to know ambition under every disguise it may assume; and knowing it, to defeat its views. In every government on earth is some trace of human weakness, some germ of corruption and degeneracy, which cunning will discover, and wickedness insensibly open, cultivate and improve.”
Only 12 percent of America’s high school seniors are proficient in U.S. history. If we made this subject a bigger focal point of the education system, would the next generation of voters be more aware and able to discern the pros and cons of socialist government, democratic or not?
[Image Credit: David Shankbone CC BY 3.0]
Annie Holmquist is editor of Intellectual Takeout, an online magazine and sister publication of Chronicles.