commentary and current events

Dinosaurs Vote: How We’re Letting the Past Decide Our Elections

Here’s a disturbing pair of facts to enliven your Monday Two Weeks From US Election Day.

One: The average time across all industries for a skill set to become obsolete is 4 years. In many industries, it’s shorter: Tech, for instance, has a skill turnaround time of about 18 months. (For reference, 18 months ago was when Notre Dame burned down. …Okay, maybe The Age of COVID is a bad era in which to be making time references.)

Two: In 2016, more than half of voters over age 45 held a high school diploma or less. That includes 57 percent of voters ages 45 to 64 and 66 percent – two in three – voters 65 or older.

This year’s 45-year-old voters earned their high school diplomas around 1993. For the 75 and over cohort, those diplomas came from about 1963 or earlier.

Meanwhile, a high school education is now obsolete, from a work skills perspective, for anyone over the age of 22.

I emphasize the high school diploma here for two reasons. One, it’s the maximum level of formal education attained by over half of voters ages 45+. Two, we still treat the high school diploma as a reasonable end goal of education – especially if “we” are 45 or older. Yet today’s college students have run out the clock on the skills they learned in high school just as, or even before, they finish college.

Oh, and also, the 45+ crew are the ones who vote.

Put together, these two facts point to a disturbing trend: The people who vote the most, on issues in a society in which lifelong continuing education is a survival need, are the least likely to have had lifelong continuing education.

Image: Blog title image featuring the title of the post and a picture of wooden dinosaur toys.

Put another way, the people who are most likely to influence the outcome of elections in the US are also the least likely to understand the world they live in today and what it demands. They’re still basing decisions on an education earned in the middle of the previous century, because that’s the education they have – even though educations earned in the middle of the last decade are, in a key sense, obsolete.

I don’t intend to imply that everyone over 45 is trapped in the mid-1900s. Many have had some kind of continuing education beyond high school, and/or they have continued to educate themselves in various ways.

But I would venture to suggest that the older (and thus more likely to vote) they are, the more likely it is this cohort is operating on a set of obsolete understandings about the world and how it works.

I know the rest of us are exhausted trying to revamp our entire skill set every 1.5 to 5 years. But if our election outcomes are going to reflect our lived realities at all, those of us who actually contend with constant skill slippage have to fill out our ballots.


Buy me a coffee for more disturbing insights, or share this post on social media and let others share your pain.

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