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Laura Sibinescu

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Are governments interested in keeping us 'dumb'?

Educated citizens are difficult to govern - this is a recurrent argument I've encountered while discussing education with various people.

Do you think it's in a democratic government's best interest to keep its citizens ignorant by maintaining largely outmoded school systems and educational policies, a lack of transparency, or the failure to encourage social and political participation? Or would a democratic government prefer to work with an educated, involved citizenry?

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  • Mar 27 2013: Maybe it's not the government so much as those who control who groverns. Why else would some contributors spend millions of dollars each year on political campaigns in America? Okay you don't send a kid to prep school for her to become a mathematician or philosopher. That would not be desired. Maybe the French have the right idea with the schools Napoleon created.
    • Apr 3 2013: The democratic process in Australia insists that all eligible citizens vote. Does this make a difference? For example in relation to political campaigns and contributors trying to sway voting as well as voters. If you subscribe, as I do to the belief that voting citizens have power to choose their government based on what they see as the most important agenda issues (rather than which government is going to meet their most immediate material need), then we are as responsible for dumbing ourselves down as any government. I'd like to know more about what you are referring to George, in relation to the French and the schools Napoleon created. It is not something I know much about.
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        Apr 6 2013: Ellen,
        How does the Australian government "insist" that all eligible citizens vote? How does that work?

        Apparently it DOES work...
        Australia has a 93.22% voter turn out!'
        Sweden - 84.63%
        Brazil - 81.88%
        UK - 65.77%
        USA - 41.59%

        I just posted these radomly.....here is the 2010 data:
        http://www.idea.int/vt/countryview.cfm?id=198

        It looks like Australia is one of the highest, and USA one of the lowest!
        How do you do that Ellen???

        Do the majority of Australians look at the important issues, rather than which person or party will satisfy their immediate issues? That would be GREAT if we (USA) could all embrace this practice!!!

        I totally agree with you that we, as individuals are responsible for "dumbing" ourselves, and we are responsible for the people we appoint and elect!
        • Apr 7 2013: Hi Colleen,
          The answer is that voting is compulsory in Australia. I would love to think that we voted on important issues rather than immediate needs, however many would say that is not the case. I do believe that compulsory voting is a way of getting a greater proportion of the population engaged in "important" issues but I have no evidence to back that up.
          Our elections often seem to be "dumbed down" to issues of immediate material need despite the fact that we are, in the scheme of things, a fairly affluent country. We currently have a national " debate" over the funding of educational reform and the debate seems more focused on the cost of the reforms rather than finding a way to make it work. That in itself sounds like prioritising material needs over the educational future of our children. The long term consequence of stronger and more equitable educational opportunities is surely a good way to build economic prosperity and security for all citizens. This of course is particularly important for marginalised citizens who can then build their capacity (via education) to contribute and participate in the broader society.
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        Apr 7 2013: Ellen,
        How is compulsory voting enforced?
        • Apr 7 2013: There are fines for not voting. All those of eligible age are encouraged to register with the Australian electoral office and an electoral role is kept. I have always complied and am not aware of all the details around enforcing this but it seems that most citizens comply and take this "right/obligation" for granted.
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        Apr 7 2013: Wow fines....that will do it obviously! I cannot imagine giving up the right to vote, but lots of people do. Many folks don't think their vote matters....they don't think there is a possibility for change, and that is unfortunate.

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