The Washington Times
November 7, 2005

Washington Times Op-ed—Heeding the Lesson of Good Citizenship

by J. Michael Smith
HSLDA President

The people of Virginia and New Jersey will have an opportunity to elect new governors tomorrow. Election Day is a regular event in America, but most citizens seem to take it for granted that the people can select their own leaders.

Voting is an act of civic responsibility and one that should be taken seriously, especially in light of the fact that much of the world does not live in freedom. Unfortunately, after every election in this country, we discover a significant portion of eligible voters didn't cast ballots.

If trends hold, the turnout tomorrow likely will be about 45 percent. I expect Iraqis, who voted for a constitution for the first time in their history last month, would be amazed at the voter apathy that is prevalent in America.

Voting should be one of the high points of civic life. When you vote, you are part of the decision-making process for your own society rather than allowing other people to make decisions for you. Nonvoters are choosing to abdicate their responsibility and consequently leave the impression that they are disengaged from society.

Unfortunately, many people hold the view that home-schoolers are akin to nonvoters, who are choosing to passively disengage or protest society. However, it is home-schoolers who have one of the highest propensities to vote.

A 2004 study by the National Home Education Research Institute titled "Homeschooling Grows Up" surveyed more than 7,000 home-school graduates. It was discovered that 76 percent of home-schoolers ages 18 to 24 had voted in an election. This compares to 29 percent of the general population for that age group. The disparity grows for home-schoolers aged 25 to 39, where 95 percent voted compared with 40 percent of the general population.

These results show home-schoolers are engaged in society and care about the direction the country is taking. The higher vote totals also translate into more civic participation. Home-school graduates ages 18 to 24 were 14 times more likely to have worked for a political candidate or cause than the general population.

It's possible that education has a role to play. Just 4.2 percent of home-schoolers thought that politics and government were too difficult to understand, which compares with 35 percent in the general population. Motivation, however, is an important factor.

Home-schoolers are motivated to improve the communities in which they live. The level of participation seen in the home-school community is not the profile of a group that is seeking to insulate itself from society. Rather, when it comes to voting, home-schoolers are trying to make the largest impact possible and will seek to support candidates who approve of a parent's right to independently home-school.

Most home-school families are not raising their children to be passive. Few parents make the sacrifice to home-school with the goal of raising children who simply will go through the motions of life. There is a purpose to home-schooling. One of the goals is to raise children we can be proud of and who will seek to be of service to others. Voting is an important expression of that commitment and one the overwhelming majority of home-schoolers embrace.

It is likely that home-schoolers will have a profound effect on society. Home-schooling is growing at an estimated rate of 7 percent to 15 percent per year and roughly 2 million home-schooled children will reach voting age during the next 10 years. The growth of home-schooling means home-schoolers inevitably will leave a significant impression on society.

I expect the overwhelming majority of home-school families will vote tomorrow. Let's hope the trend of low voter turnout is broken and the people show they want their voices heard.

Michael Smith is the president of the Home School Legal Defense Association. He may be contacted at 540/338-5600; or send e-mail to media@hslda.org.

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