- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 12, 2003

WASHINGTON, March 12 (UPI) — The nation's youth is not voting as much as they used to, but in other areas of public life they are more involved, the Carnegie Corp. said Wednesday.

One of the solutions to the decline in voting would be to make the age group between 18 and 24 is to make them more relevant, said panelists at a news conference called to announce a Carnegie position paper on the subject.

"If you ask them, the rates of voting in the early 1970s were a little more than half — they said yes they voted — and now it's 35 percent," said Shelly Berman, superintendent of Hudson Public Schools, Mass.

He acknowledged that those percentages are probably a little higher actual numbers.

Alison Byrne Fields, who wrote the paper entitled, "The Youth Vote: Democracy in Crisis," said one of the ways to improve it would be to pay attention to them.

"It's related to relevance," she said. "The onus is on the political system. There is a need for the candidates to recognize the value of the youth vote."

Fields said it is a chicken-and-egg issue. Which comes first, for the students to vote or politicians to seek the vote.

She said the politicians have to realize "how easy and how cheap it is. All you have to do is call them (young voters) — acknowledge that they exist."

She said what is going on now is that "politicians rarely take them into consideration and in many cases ignore them."

Despite the low voter turnout, young people are volunteering at higher numbers now than in previous generations and they are protesting more than their parents, the baby boomers.

The UCLA Higher Education Research Institute's annual survey of college freshmen, participation in organized demonstration grew to an all-time high in 2001.

Cynthia Gibson of Carnegie's Strengthening U.S. Democracy program, said the volunteerism could serve as a springboard for voter participation. She and others said education was the key.

"No matter what way they want to be involved they would have to have knowledge and skills to do it and the way to get that is in the schools," she said.

"But very little is offered. People are afraid of it. We need to provide more history, government and politics. Students should be invited to discuss current events in the classrooms, and it should be available to all students at all ages," Gibson said.

Berman said civics and current events should be embedded in core academic subjects.

"When you teach science, students should learn how the concepts they are learning applies in the political, social and environmental problems we face," he said.

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