In February 2014, Generation Citizen’s Director of Programming, Sarah Andes, wrote an important article for City Limits concerning the recent election of Mayor de Blasio and the civic engagement of New York City’s young people. De Blasio, in a radio interview on ‘The Brian Lehrer Show” communicated his opinion prior to his election that Mayor Bloomberg had lost touch with the people he was serving. De Blasio’s understanding of this could be the solution for getting young people involved in their government. But what can he do to really make this happen?
In her op-ed, Sarah identified some of the challenges that de Blasio faces as he enters into his first term as Mayor, one of which is a record low voter turn-out of only 24 percent, representing a citizenry that is disengaged from the political process. Mayor de Blasio hopes to create solutions for many of the problems that the city of New York is currently facing, but to do this, he must re-engage its citizens. Andes states that “more than serving as a voice, Mayor de Blasio should use his authority and influence to promote all voices.” By actively involving all NYC citizens, including youth, de Blasio could create solutions based upon the needs that citizens establish for themselves and the solutions that wish to develop.
Andes notates a five point to-do list for the Mayor that she believes would not only involve young people in the political system, but could also present solutions to the problems that face the city today. One of the main points is for de Blasio to actively support the civic education of young people, addressing the issue in both his public speeches as well as in legislation. Civics education in schools is an essential factor in involving young people in their government. Andes also considers the idea of lowering the voting age for local elections to include students who are still in school. The younger the voting age, the more likely a student is to be educated about getting involved. Lowering the voting age in NYC would lead to an increase of students who are knowledgeable about the electoral system and able to voice their opinions through the vote.
Democracy is only able to function when diverse opinions are represented and recognized. The education of youth is absolutely essential in creating a stronger government that is more solutions-oriented. In order for NYC to continue to grow and problem solve civic disengagement, action civics must become a part of youth education, leading to a population of well-informed and civically active citizens.
A a former GC Democracy Coach, I believe lowering the voting age could have a huge beneficial impact on students while they are still in school. My class of 34 seniors in high school were very well informed on how the government functioned, but had a limited knowledge of who was representing them and the election process that was happening during our class time. None of my students were eligible to vote and therefore had not been informed in school about the elections. By lowering the voting age, classes would be forced to discuss and debate local elections on a more realistic level. Students would be responsible for the information they received and could be urged to utilize that information in the voting process. I am in support of Sarah’s recommendations and look forward to seeing GC continue to engage our new administration.
– Katelyn Alcott, Wagner College (former Generation Citizen Democracy Coach and current Democracy Journalist)
– This post originally appeared on the Generation Citizen website.