Don’t Promote “Just Vote”

(Note: To be clear, by “just vote” I am not referring to any organization bearing that name or motto, I am referring only to the phrase in common parlance.)

Continuing with my “don’t” theme, it is once again that time where I start hearing the same piece of rhetoric repeated endlessly through US media: “Just vote.”

“Democracy depends on people fulfilling their civic duty to vote, it doesn’t matter who you vote for, just vote… I’m not telling you to vote for anyone, I’m just telling you to vote.”

So here I am with my wet blanket, arguing a point no one really cares about, yet it’s important enough to say anyway. That advice is bad, because it’s not enough.

For a democracy to work well, it is woefully inadequate if everyone just votes. To govern ourselves effectively, we need to actually be informed voters. Obviously, I’m a teacher promoting education, but it really is one of the essential things to have a successful democratic system.

There’s a lesson to be learned from the recent “Brexit” fiasco, it became very clear after that vote that many voters did not realize what they were actually voting for. There was so much misinformation on both sides that many people voted with a complete misunderstanding of the actual matter at hand.

Granted, doing the research isn’t easy, especially when the supposedly reputable fact checkers fail with their own fact checking. (Such as how PolitiFact claimed Jon Stewart was wrong about Fox news when they checked polls about a different subject than he actually talked about.)

Then there’s the deeper matters about understanding how the issues actually work in the real world. It’s one thing to know a candidates stance on minimum wage, but entirely another to look at the evidence about its effects on businesses, individuals, and the economy. Teachers have a responsibility to help students find the right questions to ask and the accurate ways to get answers, and luckily there are issues that can overlap with almost every subject. Unfortunately, the rhetoric of “just vote” is louder and catchier than “do your homework first.”

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Jay teaches English in Asia and loves skepticism and teaching above all else.

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