Elections are the lifeblood of representative democracies and, in the case of America, the lifeblood of a constitutional republic. As we approach Election Day, it is worth pondering whether citizens are fully engaged in the process of electing our leaders.
Every year, we read the reports about low voter turnout. Even in presidential elections, typically only half of eligible voters actually make it to the polls.
Will we ever improve on these numbers and engage an overwhelming majority of citizens? Regrettably, the research shows that people ages 18 to 24 consistently vote at about a 30 percent rate. Voting rates increase with age, but if young adults are not engaged, there’s a danger that these habits will become ingrained.
Clearly, the message concerning the importance of voting isn’t working. However, there is a bright spot in this grim picture. The National Home Education Research Institute discovered that 76 percent of home-school graduates 18 to 24 years old voted in an election in the past five years. What an amazing contrast.
The study also found that home-school graduates ages 18 to 24 were three times more likely to financially support a candidate for public office and 14 times more likely to work for a political campaign than their 18-to-24-year-old public school counterparts.
In light of these facts, the Home School Legal Defense Association started Generation Joshua this spring. Generation Joshua is dedicated to harnessing the community spirit of home-school teens and young home-school graduates.
Generation Joshua also is designed to bridge the generations. The home-school pioneers of 25 years ago faced jail for their decision to home-school. Because these families forged a path for home-schooling, they often are referred to as the Moses Generation. It was a generation that laid the foundation for the modern home-school movement.
Now the children of the Moses Generation have an opportunity to prove home-schooling’s true potential. These new graduates will demonstrate that the home-school method consistently produces mature, engaged and active citizens, and Generation Joshua is a way this new generation can have a positive effect on the culture.
The program, headed by Ned Ryun, son of U.S. Rep. Jim Ryun, Kansas Republican, has three parts: a civics curriculum, a voter-registration drive and student action teams. The civics curriculum explores civil society from the perspective of the Founding Fathers and lays the groundwork for individuals taking action to improve their communities.
One of the most innovative parts of the civics curriculum is the series of online chats with community and political leaders. So far, chats have been held with David Barton, president of WallBuilders, a national group dedicated to having a positive influence on family, education and government; Michael Farris, president of Patrick Henry College; and Rep. Ryun.
In addition, Generation Joshua will be publishing a civics textbook in spring 2005 that will cover the founding of the United States and explore the development of civil society from the first settlers to the present day.
Building on the civics curriculum is the voter-registration drive. Generation Joshua has more than 1,500 members, and more than 800 drives have been held throughout the country over the past few months. Registering new voters is the first step to bringing more people into the electoral process. Generation Joshua members also will have an opportunity to participate in student action teams this fall.
The Generation Joshua program shows that home-schoolers are not retreating from society, as some critics claim, but are actively engaged in making a difference.
Home-schoolers enter the world with confidence and a belief that it’s possible to make positive changes locally and nationally. Generation Joshua may well become the vehicle through which a new generation of home-schoolers makes a lasting impact on this nation.
Michael Smith is the president of the Home School Legal Defense Association. He may be contacted at 540/338-5600, or send e-mail to email@example.com.