– So utters the lovable yellow bear W-the-P from a famous children’s book by early 20th-century English novelist A.A.M., when he faces puzzling problems.
The quote may be uttered by some 2.4 million young minds of my country who gained voting rights due to the lowering of voting age from twenty to eighteen last June. They will have their first opportunity to exercise their rights this summer with the Upper House election. But a major concern remains – will they actually vote?
Maybe they will, because the reason given for lowering the voting age was so that their voices can be reflected more in politics – the motivational argument.
Or maybe they will not, because they do not have a good understanding of how voting works, or they are pre-occupied on things other than politics (the biggest would be college entrance exams) – the technicality counter-argument.
Most people’s talks seem centred on these arguments, but I think they are missing the point altogether. What is more fundamentally at issue here is whether or not the new right-holders have the capacity to decide how to cast a vote – in other words, do they have decision-making skills?
There are many theories on decision-making out there, but most involve the following steps: identifying the issue that requires decision to be made, gathering relevant information needed to make the decision, coming up with potential alternatives and choosing one to act on, and reviewing the consequences.
As these steps would suggest, decision-making requires a lot of careful and focused thinking. And it is not something that can be taught in a few instances, but rather something that is fostered with much repeated practice.
Now, who is it that really must “think, think, think”?
***March 15, 2016 Addendum***
Educators and policy-makers of my homeland, distributing booklets on why voting is important or giving classes on how it works is not nearly enough to get our young minds to vote. Even if you give them the right, if they do not know how to make choices, they will not exercise it. Start with allowing them to acquire decision-making skills – take the time to let them learn how to choose and live with the consequences.