Monday, October 21, 2013

Democracy the Elusive and Illusive: Part Two – Jim Crow Meets Horace Mann

"Father of the Common School Movement"

With regard to Paul Louis Metzger and Tom Krattenmaker and their joint post “The Voting Rights Act and Post-Racialized American: Can We Vote on That?” I felt that two additional perspectives may be helpful. Here’s the second of those:
Regarding the perception that representative democracy in a constitutional republic is merely elusive and not patently illusive:
        Outside the ongoing electoral college debacle, within the boundaries of an area of population affected by a given issue, or represented by a particular office-holder, we hold to an ideal of “one person, one vote.” Yet we also discuss regularly the need for community organizers to coalesce a block of voters who will pursue a particular agenda. Please don’t stop at the next phrase, which might immediately seem harsh and judgmental, but such cynical dichotomies rely on the unwillingness and/or inability of individual voters to determine for themselves what vote to cast.
        That many are unwilling to educate themselves personally, and instead rely on decisions made by those who lead whatever group or organization claims to represent them, is well documented. The rates of voter turnout are abysmal, even when the best efforts of registration and transportation have been implemented. But that unwillingness has, I believe, the same root cause as does the inability of too many to analyze and process the information available in order to cast a responsible vote.
Antioch Hall, Antioch College, Yellow Springs, Ohio
        The same inequities of education that prevent many from identifying their own preferences among the candidates and issues also withhold any motivation for participating through the simple mechanism of civic ignorance. While some schools require a civics class, most provide an example of something far different. Without belaboring the point, though, the portion germane to our discussion here is the reality that until we begin to raise up a generation educated in both the means and motivation for taking mutual responsibility through the ballot box, we consign ourselves to a handful of well-funded groups and organizations (not the least of which are the privileged-non-persons of multi-national corporations) who will continue to influence large blocks of voters, setting policy and enacting legislation almost entirely unrelated to the portrayals they offer in their election/marketing campaigns. That the results most often run counter to the well-being of the voters amply illustrates the need for a better approach.
But until it includes a more inclusive system of equitable education (the dream of Horace Mann, pictured above), the concept of representative democracy in a constitutional republic is not merely elusive, it is patently illusive.


Greg Dueker said...

What is the connection to Antioch Hall? Is it the two tower symbolizing your two arguments?

Wm. Darius Myers said...

Good question. I never got around to saying why that was there. In addition to his many other posts and influences, Horace Mann was also the first president of Antioch College. Whether for plays, or to hike and ride around in Yellow Springs, it holds other fond memories for me, but it's the Horace Mann connection that's intended here. Thanks for asking.

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