Education is empowerment

Election Day I sat in a class as questions swirled around the room aimed at anyone with an answer.

Our professor was left to attempt to field them in the few minutes she could allow before the start of presentations.

They weren’t questions about candidates or policies, but general election questions.

My professor was left to do a job that should have been completed both by the educational system and the media.

Far before students woke up Tuesday and long before they stepped into her class it should have been known when the ballots would be counted. They should have known they would know the next president most likely by the time they woke up Wednesday morning.

Some of the questions scared me. Apparently so much so that it was physically visible to another Shieldster in the class.

I looked down at my phone to see a text that read, “You good?”

I was not. The conversation added a heavy weight to my shoulders as if I wasn’t already weighed down that day. All I could wonder was what link in the chain broke that caused adults to not know some of the basics of voting or elections?

It wasn’t just this class. It was my social media, the line at Starbucks and anywhere else I might find the opportunity to eavesdrop.

Someone posted within a few days of Election Day asking how they could complete an absentee ballot. There’s one vote that actually wasn’t going to count. It never had the chance to.

News and election illiteracy in the United States, not necessarily at any certain age, is devastating.

It isn’t taught the way it should be.

Though a lack of knowledge can affect people of all ages, I feel particularly aware of its impact on young voters.

It immediately disenfranchises young voters to not educate them.

The moment they feel they have the excuse of not understanding the process or not knowing enough about the candidates, the apathy can begin.

Journalists, educators, family and friends: everyone has to work to make a lack of knowledge no longer an excuse in politics.

Wednesday was a day of introspection for myself and many others who feel they had a voice and a power during election season.

Did we do our duty? And even if the answer to that is yes, did we do it well enough?

At The Shield we created an election guide which aimed to answer questions students and other members of the campus community might have. It was the issue people picked up off stands the least up to that point.

When members of the staff went out to hand them out directly on campus, multiple people turned them down.

I propose there is no such thing as overeducated when it comes to decision making that affects an entire nation. Can anyone say they stepped into a vote center Tuesday overeducated?

From now forward, think about what your duty is to the people around you. The generations above and below you can learn. There are always things to be taught.

Help people understand how to digest the news. Help them understand how an election works and what their vote means.

It’s not a moot point after the election. Education will never be a moot point.

Spread your knowledge far and wide. To educate is to empower.

Say it slowly, say it clearly and spell it out if needed.

Not everyone is willing to learn, but everyone deserves the opportunity to.