From today’s LA Times:
“I have a fresh idea that no one has ever suggested in such detail or with such care before: Let’s have some kind of literacy test at the polling place to keep undesirables from voting!”
Somewhat longer Jonah:
Maybe the emphasis on getting more people to vote has dumbed-down our democracy by pushing participation onto people uninterested in such things. Maybe our society would be healthier if politicians aimed higher than the lowest common denominator. Maybe the opinions of people who don’t know the first thing about how our system works aren’t the folks who should be driving our politics, just as people who don’t know how to drive shouldn’t have a driver’s license.Instead of making it easier to vote, maybe we should be making it harder. Why not test people about the basic functions of government? Immigrants have to pass a test to vote; why not all citizens?
“I’m also working on an exciting idea for something I’m calling ‘the Poll Tax.’ It’s just a work in progress, but it’s a very serious, thoughtful idea that no one’s ever had before, and I really think it’s got the potential to revolutionize democracy in America.
What? No, I wasn’t planning on having any American history questions in the voter test – why do you ask?”
UPDATE: Mary is a public school teacher, so I asked what she thought of this column. Before her head exploded, this is roughly what she had to say:
So, Jonah thinks people should pass a civics test in order to vote.
All I could think was, “Gee! Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to educate every citizen of our country so that they would could pass such a test, no matter their income?” Then I remembered that in the past wedid educate our citizens on that very subject; it was called Social Studies and it’s one of the most recent victims of the asinine No Child Left Behind act.
You see, in order to prove proficiency under that act, a school must passonly a reading and math test. No other subject is tested. And schools are in such a panic to make sure their students pass their standardized tests, subjects like Science and Social Studies have been pushed out of the classroom. So if Jonah thinks the current adult population is ignorant of (and therefore disinterested in) politics, wait until the kids now in school come of age. They’ll be so woefully uninformed about their rights and obligations as citizens, they might actually mistake Jonah’s mash note to Jim Crow for a rational alternative to using the schools and media to inform Americans about issues of public importance.
If you didn’t know better, you’d almost think the GOP wants a populace that’s ignorant about the basics of government, and the NCLB delivers exactly that.
Posted by scott on Tuesday, July 31st, 2007 at 5:02 pm.