Only a third of Americans voted in last week’s election. Worse than apathetic, our poor turnout evidences a breach of contract. Having failed to participate in the republic we were trained for, non-voting Americans should forfeit their high school diplomas and university degrees.
Two thirds of Americans didn’t cast a ballot last week, but most of us have taken advantage of free public education. 85% of U.S. citizens hold a high school diploma. A third of us hold Bachelor’s degrees. Even university experiences are often paid, in part, by the state.
Despite Socrates’s dictum that an unexamined life is not worth living, we don’t educate our population simply for the sake of individual enlightenment. The U.S. offers free public education because an educated populace is requisite to a democracy.
In a country where the word socialist serves as political mudsling, we offer socialized education. Taxpayers fund education for us all – even for those of us who don’t pay, or don’t pay as much, tax. Here, we all own the means to potentially better ourselves and our situations.
Most Americans probably don’t think of their elementary or middle or high schools as socialist experiences, or of themselves as socialists. For most, state-funded education is just the way things are. But there’s a reason for this way. The American way depends on citizens who practice good citizenship. And good citizenship means, amongst other responsibilities, voting.
In addition to being a privilege that expects one in return, education is a hope. Public education still promises, or at least tries to promise, the American dream. You can’t get to liberty and justice for all, or anywhere near those ideals, unless you give people a chance. All people.
As we’ve sworn, hand over heart, we stand for the republic. For liberty and justice. It’s no coincidence that we make this pledge most often in public schools. And therein lies our chance.
Like atlas holds the weight of the world on his shoulders, public education supports the republic in its ideals and practices.
The price of membership in the republic is voting. Sure, the electoral college is flawed. As are many of the options on our ballots. As are the ballots themselves or, at least, the way they’re counted. As are the shady campaigns that seek to defy truth and justice for all.
But through education we have a chance, because we’ve been given one in return for our participation. For years, we’ve pledged allegiance. When the polls open, then, it’s time to show our loyalty. Because an unexamined republic is not worth having.
So I say if we are not thankful for the chance, we should give it back. If you don’t fulfill your pledge and vote, you should forfeit the education your were offered in exchange for your participation. While you cannot return your literacy, and while you cannot forget the social experience of sharing in common pursuits with your peers, you can hand over your high school diploma. If you attended a state university, you can relinquish your degree.
If we don’t care for the candidates, Americans should still honor our agreement to uphold the republic. Because if we don’t make like Atlas, it will all come crashing down on us.