Shocked to learn that only 37 percent of students vote, an English professor required her students to vote. Merrill Maguire Skaggs, who teaches at Drew University in New Jersey, explained her decision in Columbia’s Teachers’ College Record.
First, she suggested that other professors join her. Many said “the idea sounded totalitarian, that it was probably illegal, that it denied students their civil right not to vote, that students would be served better by substantive class discussions of the issues.” But others said Australia requires everyone to vote and is not considered totalitarian. A lawyer advised that she could require students to enter a voting booth, but couldn’t know if they voted for a candidate or for Donald Duck. Dreaming of student voters swaying elections, she went ahead with her plan.
The job of an English professor is to teach English. That’s it. Adding non-academic requirements to a course is objectionable, no matter how important the professor may believe them to be. Suppose that another English professor who feels passionately that students need to get in better physical shape (for their own benefit, and also to reduce the strain that overweight, sickly people put on our semi-socialist health-care system) mandates that in order to pass the course, all students must be able to run a mile in less than eight minutes.
Two of my daughter’s college friends didn’t vote. One had moved and forgot to register or request an absentee ballot. The other just didn’t bother. Both are political science majors.
Nationwide, more voters under 30 went to the polls, though their share of the total electorate barely budged because of the high turn-out in other age groups.
According to professor William Galston at the University of Maryland, at least 20.9 million Americans under 30 voted on Tuesday. That is an increase of 4.6 million voters from 2000. Four years ago, just 42.3 percent of young people voted. This year more than 51.6 percent did.
Exit polls suggest Kerry won 54 percent of the youth vote but lost in every other age group.