Saturday, January 26, 2013

Literacy Tests For Legislators

I bristle at attempts at dampening voter turnout. In Minnesota we defeated a proposed voter ID amendment. Voter ID isn't what this post's about, but my shut up shut up shut up comment is from Greg Palast, writing in the Fall Yes Magazine:

"In more than 100 years, there has not been a single case of voter identity fraud in the state of Indiana. Yet in 2008, 145, 000 legitimate voters there were turned away from the polls because they could not produce the photo IDs acceptable to state officials on a crusade against 'voter fraud'." And in the nation, "more than 5.9 million citizens were wrongly barred from voting or having their ballots counted in 2008."

But... Sometimes I want to bring back literacy tests.

It wouldn't be spelling and identifying obscure public figures. I wouldn't ask my old mother to tell me vanadium's atomic number. Maybe it could even be oral, but it would be hard. There wouldn't be right answers -- not in the sense that you had to subscribe to climate change or the theory of evolution -- but you'd have to understand the issues that society grapples with. You'd have to know, for instance, how society uses calculus to operate, although you wouldn't have to perform the operations.

You couldn't cover it all. Everybody's got holes in their weltanschuaung.

It's a republic after all. We hire legislatures because we have our own rows to hoe. I wouldn't want to disenfranchise anybody for being a dope, either. I might wind up crying outside the polling place myself.

In my kingdom, though, if you want your name on a ballot, for dogcatcher or president, expect to spend a couple of days demonstrating your understanding of the canon.

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