Vote or Else

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.

George Leef of the John Locke Foundation disapproves:

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. I tend to agree with Leef about non-academic requirements, but it shocks me that young people studying political science don’t get it together to participate.

My daughter did have a friend who volunteered in a get out the vote drive. She got 22 voters to the polls on Election Day. Because of the funding, the drive was supposed to be nonpartisan, but the organizers focused on areas with potential Kerry voters and the volunteers were strongly for Kerry.

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.

How Kerry Lost the Kid Vote

A Tennessee teacher explains why Bush won the student election by a landslide:

The funny thing is that one of my students just rushed up to me upon hearing the results over the intercom and said, "John Kerry said he was going to make us go to school on Saturdays!

Karl Rove is everywhere!

Voting With Children

Security and traffic fears persuaded some Cleveland-area schools that host polling places not to hold classes on Election Day.

What a shame. When I was in elementary school, I was excited by the chance to see my parents and grandmother coming to school to vote. It made voting seem grown-up and important, and yet accessible. I always vote in person; I've never missed an election, however minor.

Elsewhere, parents were urged to take their children to the polls.

A group called Take Your Kids to Vote urges parents to bring their children, from toddlers to teens, to the polls when they vote, as a simple way to impress upon them the value of voting.


A part-time instructor at Fort Lewis College in Colorado kicked a student wearing a College Republicans sweat shirt at an off-campus restaurant. According to student Mark O'Donnell, his assailant, Maria Spero, then said "she should have kicked me harder and higher."

Spero, a visiting instructor of modern languages, apologized to O'Donnell in a letter dated Oct. 29.

"I acted entirely inappropriately by kicking you, giving vent to a thoughtless knee-jerk political reaction that should never have happened," she wrote. "Before the incident, I did not know you and that you are a Fort Lewis student."

Actually, it's not OK to kick non-students either.


Kate Wilson of McLean, Va., writes:

My daughter attended the homecoming at Loudoun Valley High School, and the day she found out they had to sign the behavior agreement she came home exclaiming, "We have to face each other when we dance!" She was very upset about it.

As her parent, I don't want her freak dancing and I believe schools can and should enforce standards of behavior for the students. I told my daughter that, at 14, she has no business rubbing her behind in some guy's crotch on or off the dance floor. Anyone who thinks this is a proper form of expression for a child is a moron. This was actually initiated because at last year's prom many students were upset at the simulated intercourse that was passed off as “dancing.”

James Carr of Marietta, Ga., writes:

I think this would be a great opportunity to teach Loudoun Valley High School students a good lesson in “First Amendment freedoms of expression.” The students should be allowed to demonstrate their “right” to dance any way they wish. Likewise, the high school will exercise its freedom of expression by banning all dances.

Joanne Jacobs writes about education and other issues at She's writing a book, Ride the Carrot Salad, about a start-up charter high school in San Jose.

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