Being a kid is fun. You get to run around and play games, you don’t have many responsibilities and you get to feel like you are making a difference without too much effort. Even as adults, it’s good for us to hold on to that mindset in certain situations. Life can’t be all about work or school, it`s important to be carefree and even childlike once in a while. There are other times however when a more serious and mature approach is called for.
Choosing a government is one of those times. In the recent federal election, we saw the phenomenon of “vote mobs” at various universities throughout Canada. The goal of these vote mobs was, apparently, to increase voter turnout among younger Canadians. The voter turnout rate of those under the age of 25 typically lags behind that of other age groups. I won’t get into an analysis of the factors that cause this lower level of turnout, but I will share my thoughts on the effectiveness, or lack thereof of the vote mobs.
These events consisted of students running through their university campuses yelling and shouting, while carrying signs covered in text such as “I vote because I have a voice,” “We are voting,” “Impress us,” to name just a few. While these vote mobs were loud, I think they completely missed the mark and are an example of how the loudest political voices on campus do not always represent the views of the majority of students.
While the vote mobs may presume that students are motivated by simplistic slogans, I think that students deserve far more credit. Students, like all voters, vote on the issues that affect them.
Shouting “We have a voice” might make someone feel like a part-time revolutionary, but I don’t think it’s going to motivate someone to vote. To me, the childish atmosphere surrounding the vote mobs shows a subtle disrespect for the political awareness of students. The work required to increase voter turnout among young people will not be accomplished quickly. It is a process that will require a lot of tasks that are more effective, but less instantly gratifying than a vote mob: Analysis of data, meetings with politicians and educators as well as serious thinking into how to present the issues. This process has already begun in the U2011 Lecture Series on understanding the 2011 Manitoba election, and a way for students who are curious about politics to become involved.
If we are to engage more students in politics, we have to start by having respect for their intelligence and their ability to make an informed choice.
Spencer Fernando is the Comment Editor for the Manitoban.