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Askwith Essentials: Education, Voting, and the Midterms

On Monday, October 1, Askwith Forums will host a dialogue to illuminate the barriers to voting, to describe new ways to encourage civic action, and to discuss the issues at stake in the upcoming midterm elections.

Live streaming of the event will begin at 5:30 p.m.

Voting is central to our democracy and critical to the struggle to build a more representative government and a more equitable and just society. But why do so few of us do it? The factors at play — the politically and racially motivated constraints on voting rights, the apathy or lack of interest among many young people, and the marginalization of entire voting blocs — need to be understood and addressed. Educators have a key role to play, centralizing conversations about access, civic participation, and the rights and responsibilities of citizens. And educators can also help to illuminate the issues facing voters — and the impact of politics on education.

On the heels of National Voter Registration Day, and in conjunction with the Harvard Votes Challenge, Askwith Forums will host a dialogue on Monday, October 1, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. to illuminate the barriers to voting, to describe new ways to encourage civic action, and to discuss the issues at stake in the upcoming midterm elections.

The Panel

  • Meira Levinson is a professor and political philosopher at HGSE whose work has focused on ethical dilemmas and justice in schools, including the question of how teachers can help students strive to become good citizens and not just good students.
  • Archon Fung is a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School and his research revolves around issues of public participation and transparency to make government more effective.
  • Setti Warren served as mayor of Newton, Massachusetts, from 2010–2018 and is currently the executive director of the Shorenstein Center of Media, Politics, and Public Policy at the Kennedy School.
  • Moderated by Paul Reville, Francis Keppel Professor of Practice of Educational Policy and Administration at HGSE.

Topics that may be discussed include:


  • Though voting is a basic right in a democracy, the United States has a history of restricting the rights of minority groups, and some see a growing threat. Barriers like voter ID laws, cutoffs to early voting, and complicated registration processes all influence who gets to exercise this right. HGSE is participating in the Harvard Voter’s Challenge to help ensure that students are provided with the opportunity and resources to register and vote — but what else should schools and society be doing to increase access and participation?

Civic Participation

  • According to Education Week, at least 158 teachers have filed to run for state legislative office in 2018, including HGSE alums.
  • The qualities and skills that make a good educator also make for a good political leader. As one HGSE alumnus who has held public office told HGSE News in 2017, “I feel like being a school principal or teacher is like being the mayor of a small town. If a student has a parent who is deported or evicted or who is struggling with drug addiction, you see all the issues of the world walk through the doors.”

Education to Strengthen Democracy — and as an Issue in the Midterm Elections

  • Students across the country are engaged in a surge of activism, marked by protests about gun control, Black Lives Matter, and sexual violence among others.
  • Professor Meira Levinson, one of the speakers, told Usable Knowledge that students need to be engaged in political movements: “No matter what students grow up to do with their lives, they all have civic rights and responsibilities so they need to be prepared.”
  • Students, faculty, staff, and alumni from HGSE and MIT’s Teaching Systems Lab recently launched Youth in Front, an online hub for young activists to help answer questions and pool resources.

More Information:

Monday, October 1, 2018, 5:30–7 p.m.
Longfellow Hall
Appian Way
Cambridge, MA 02138