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A Broken Record? Or a One Hit Wonder?

by Ekua Boateng // Published May 8, 2008

A lot of things are said about the "apathetic youth", and how young people cannot be relied upon to vote or actively engage with the communities that they live in. Young people are blamed for anti-social and boisterous behavior, and some of societies ills, such as graffiti, dropping rubbish on the ground, playing music too loudly any time of day or night and being disrespectful. Having said all that, some young people are civically engaged, passionate about what's happening in their local community from what's happening in the classroom, to the environment, to safe places for young people to congregate or enough activities for young people to engage in during their spare time. To that end, government of all levels has tried to reach out to young people at various times and with various efforts and varying rates of success. Politicians are often accused of being "out of touch" with young people and unable to speak the same language.

To that end, there are various youth organizations that support giving young people a voice- from student groups, student unions, the youth parliament and other such groups. It is sad to hear that one such group created to engage young people and to encourage civic participation, is being put on review. NewtownAbbey's Youth Council, UK is under threat due to low attendance and the local council that runs it are considering its future and possibly launching it in a new format.

Do young people really want to be engaged or are they willing to just be the forgotten or lost constituency? In the American context do colleges do enough to make that good "faith effort" at voter registration? Are students really interested and willing to organize their own voter registration drives if colleges are not that keen on fulfilling this requirement of the Higher Education Act of 1998. A 2004 study by the Harvard Institute of Politics and The Chronicle of Higher Education found that over a quarter of public institutions and over 40 percent of private institutions are out of compliance with the law. Are young people willing to fight the good fight and stand up and to be counted? It would seem so according to the record turn out that we have seen during this presidential primary season, however will young people still be excited and energized by the 4th November 2008? Stand up and be counted and don't let youth participation be a passing craze.