Low Voter Turnout in the US Elections

Jerry Mintz

Originally published in the Education Revolution newsletter (

After last week's record low turnout for the midterm vote there were a lot of articles reporting this and despairing the phenomenon. But the analysis of why this happens didn't ever get to the core of the situation:
As I said in one of my TEDx talks, "I think that the best way to prepare students to participate in a democratic society is to have them grow up in democratic schools. Why do we have them experience 12 years of a dictatorship and then expect them to be ready for democracy?'

Why would we think that people who attended schools for twelve or more years would be prepared to vote when they didn't grow up participating in a democracy?  In fact, the training in 95% of the schools seems to be how to live and survive in a dictatorship.

You would think this would be self-evident. Democratic schools are very successful and their graduates do amazing things. Most of the schools we help people start have a sliding scale tuition and are interracial and have a spectrum of students.

Related to all of this is bullying. I believe that no program will "cure" bulling in mainstream public and private schools because of their top-down, authoritarian nature.  In that situation there will always be people at the bottom who will be bullied by those above. But in democratic and non-authoritarian learner-centered schools bullying is hardly seen. When it does happen, a democratic meeting about it can be called right away. Even in public at-risk alternatives, researcher Dr. Robert Barr discovered a starting drop in bullying statistics when he looked at alternative schools in his research.

You might wonder why research like this doesn't lead to drastic changes. I do, too. But I think that the current authoritarian system serves some economic vested interests and is also more akin to a religion. It is based on habits and  rituals and not very amenable to research or discussion. So that is our challenge! We know that learner-centered and democratic schools work. How do we get this across to the mainstream so we can truly have an Education Revolution?


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