Extra credit for voting is a bad idea


IMG_4374I’ve heard about some folks who are planning to give extra credit to their students for providing evidence that they voted.

Please don’t do this.

I have just a few reasons.

  1. It’s illegal to give students credit for voting, when there is a federal candidate on the ballot. In this election in the US, a seat in Congress is on the ballot, so it’s a federal election. (Except Washington, DC, I suppose. Perhaps it’s legal if all of your students are registered to vote in DC?)

  2. Some of your students may not be able to vote, because they might not be citizens. Please consider that it’s unfair to your non-citizen students to have to come up to you and describe their citizenship status just to get academic credit from you. (They could be permanent residents, they could be in the US on a visa, they might not undocumented. I’ve had at least one parolee that I’ve taught, and in my state, they can’t vote.)

  3. Extra credit, in general, is a bad idea and unfair to students.

  4. Voting is a civic duty, and treating it like it’s something extra isn’t exactly a solid civics lesson.

And I’m all out of reasons. But I think those four are good enough, eh?

There are so many good ways to motivate your students to learn about what’s on the ballot. And so many ways to discuss the election as a part of class. I’m often dismayed at low voting rates in my college students. We can do many things to help change that, but giving extra credit isn’t a right way to do it.

Here’s today’s post in tweet form, by the way:

If you’re eligible, please don’t forget to vote.

2 thoughts on “Extra credit for voting is a bad idea

  1. Thanks for the post. I always urge my students to vote. However, sometimes they have real questions about voting and the issues politicians are talking about. I do not want to bias their opinions, and I’m also not sure how much discussion I should allow in a biology classroom. I always feel like I’m being vague and not really allowing much of discussion (since, you know, we have biology to discuss). How do you (you as in anyone reading this blog) handle this in your own classrooms?

    • I thought this was a GREAT (and difficult) question, and am kinda bummed nobody else has chimed in? So let me take a whack at it:

      I think it’s really important to talk about contemporary issues, policy, and public engagement in the science classroom. To make sure that folks don’t think that science is somehow magically separate from the rest of the world (here I could cite all the thinkpieces and debate about the March For Science and all that). But I don’t do it as much as I want, in part, because they way I’ve constructed my lessons, the students do a lot more talking than I do. And pieces I’ve constructed might have some social relevance, but we don’t necessarily explore that. So when I do this, it merely comes as an aside, not with my opinion, but a mention about how a thing relates to policy in some way. I’m kinda proud that, at the end of the semester, sometimes students have asked me what my political orientation is, because they’re not quite sure. Which means that I’m getting the concept of policy out there, but it’s clear that I’m not just feeding them what to think. But I definitely could learn more about how to do this right. (Though since I’m not teaching this semester, it’s moot for the time being)

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