Developing mature electorate starts in the classroom

While the ruling party and opposition have waged war in many areas, both have concurred over the sanctity of the vote.

There are plenty of heartening stories of overseas Singaporeans who made long journeys to cast their votes ("S'poreans in UK among first to vote"; last Friday).

Touching, too, are the tales of the elderly who, despite their aching joints, made the trip to the polling centres ("Many queue at polling centres before they open"; last Saturday).

In contrast, there are some people who cannot be bothered to vote.

Worse still, somecast their vote without knowing who the candidates are.

Some make their decision based on hearsay, others on their capricious sentiment of the day.

Voting is not just a personal duty, it is a civic responsibility.

National education curricula often inculcate the values of active citizenship, and voting should be a fundamental tenet.

It is certainly not easy to come up with an objective curriculum for politics, but perhaps, starting the discourse in classrooms is the best way to get younger voters engaged in tackling the pervasive scope of issues and implications that will affect their lives ("Youth interest essential for future" by Lee Song Yang; Sept 9).

Further, young people are prone to rely on social media.

While there are some good pieces of writing which provide information factually and reasonably, these are far too often drowned out by a cesspool of articles spilling over with anger, acrimony and, most alarmingly, absence of reason.

The classroom may be the best place to show that there is room for harmony and mutual understanding, despite fundamental disagreements.

Discourse may not solve conflicts, but it can shed understanding on differences and reduce acrimony.

This is crucial if we do not wish our country to be bitterly divided by partisan views.

The act of voting necessitates a plurality of considerations, and it would be disappointing if many voters (particularly younger ones) treat this sacred exercise with levity.

Finding a channel to impart the importance of doing so and to allow level-headed discourse may go a long way in producing a more mature, well-informed electorate.

Yeo Tong Wei

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 17, 2015, with the headline 'Developing mature electorate starts in the classroom'. Print Edition | Subscribe