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Monday, November 16, 2020

Students deserve an explanation for the origins of the Electoral College

Students deserve an explanation for the origins of the Electoral College
TEACHER VOICE: The United States is not a democracy. Stop telling students that it is
“Students are commanded to vote, but not to judge the fundamental questions of governance not on the ballot — like the legitimacy of the Electoral College”

When U.S. voters recently cast their ballots, an unchecked pandemic raged through the nation, uprisings against racism and police violence stretched into their eighth month, and new climate change-intensified storms formed in the Atlantic.

The reactionary and undemocratic system by which we select our president was an insult to the urgency of the moment. Although millions more people voted for Joe Biden than for Donald Trump — the difference is now 5.4 million — it took several days to learn who won, thanks to the Electoral College. To the relief of many, it appears that this time — unlike in 2000 and 2016 — the candidate who got the most votes nationwide also won the presidential election.

If our students only learn about this exceptionally strange system from their corporate-produced history and government textbooks, they will have no clue why this is how we choose our president. More importantly, they will have a stunted sense of their own power — and little reason to believe they might have the potential to create something better.

To review: A voter in Montana gets 31 times the electoral bang for their presidential ballot than a voter in New York. A voter in Wyoming has 70 times the representation in the U.S. Senate as a voter in California, while citizens in Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. have none. The Republican Senate majority that recently confirmed Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court was elected by 14 million fewer votes than the 47 senators who voted against her confirmation.

Yet politicians and pundits regularly pronounce the United States a “democracy,” as if that designation is self-evident and incontrovertible. Textbooks and mainstream civics curricula make the same mistake, CONTINUE READING: Students deserve an explanation for the origins of the Electoral College