11/02/2012 03:48 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Driving the Presidential Election: The Youth Vote

We don't seem to have any problems admitting that times have changed with respect to the world of politics. What we do need to admit to ourselves is that we have gotten away from what is considered politics. By that, I mean our motivations for voting.

What goes through the head of Joe or Joan Voter?

"Eh, my neighbor seems to think that'll be good for California. I'm inclined to agree because we have the same taste in movies."

As scary as that sounds, that is something I've actually heard someone say.

Why do we vote that leader into office?

"Mitt Romney is the consummate man -- smart, savvy, successful, and strong. The fact that he's handsome and looks presidential is just a bonus."

Another scary quote taken off of the Facebook page of someone I know. Looks presidential? What does that even mean? Is that a fashion thing because he wears suits that are more than most people's weekly salaries? Could it be a racial thing denoting the fact that the nation's leaders have all typically been of the Caucasian persuasion?

Right now, the two presidential candidates are not necessarily concerned with the "how" and the "why" people are voting -- they just want the votes.

So, they have aggressively begun courting the youth of the nation.

The youth vote has the potential to drive the presidential election this year. According to Young Democrats of America, 2008 saw an increase in youth voters of 103 percent over the 2004 election. Numbers will surge this year with the strong emphasis placed on increasing the number of registered voters and the increase in social media activities.

Social media has made it kind of fun for the youth to engage each other in discussion over the presidential debates, and other aspects of this election. What they might see as politics, other might see as mere dirt slinging.

Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama have engaged the youth for support in the election -- and they are engaged to say the very least.

Engaged by what though? The political election system in our country more resembles a high school popularity contest/fashion show than anything that truly focuses on issues and how to rebuild our country.

Here's a good question; how much of our nation's youth actually understands the political system and the processes within it?

Learning about these things is important -- or, should be more important than it is. However, it seems that civics is often being overlooked in the nation's education system.

As the campaigns vigorously court the youth vote, there's been recent research to support that only nine states require civics education testing for graduation.

The fact sheet which was funded by the S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation and released earlier this month covers 50 states. The sheet shows that in the 2012-13 school years, 21 states require a state-designed social studies test. This is a substantial decrease from 2001 which saw 34 states that regularly conducted civics and social studies related subjects.

Only eight states provide standardized tests that are specific to the subjects of civics or American government: California, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia. Of those states only Ohio and Virginia require students to pass that test before graduating from high school.

Peter Levine, of the Lincoln Filene, Professor of Citizenship & Public Affairs and the Director of CIRCLE, offers his opinions into these matters.

"We might think that the solution is to require high-stakes civics tests in more states -- but not necessarily. The social studies tests that do exist today are almost all multiple-choice exams of individual students' factual knowledge. Even though state standards often call for students to develop more advanced skills, those skills are not tested. Hence what we need are new assessments tied to more thoughtful standards."

So, if all of these youth voters are being courted -- what is supposed to be the basis for these votes? It seems as though these students are voting for these presidential candidates based off of superficial, racial and possibly religious reasons.

Who seems like they would be the coolest president? That is undoubtedly the question they are asking since these statistics seem to support that the youth aren't aware of much else with regards to government.

I will admit that I am extremely proud to see an African-American president in this country where racism is still quite prevalent. As an African-American man myself, it makes me feel that I can continue to aim higher and reach higher. However, it is my civic duty as a citizen of this country to be informed about what it is I'm voting for and who I'm voting to elect or re-elect as the leader of this country.

Yes, it's true each vote counts -- but are we to vote based off of our pride or the man's capability to perform the tasks at hand? When I cast my vote, I won't allow my pride to blind me. The right person for the job should be sought after because they share the same ideals with the people that vote for them, not because they share the same race, ethnicity, or skin pigmentation.

Civics is important. If you don't know civics, then you should re-examine the reasons why you're casting that vote. You should rock the vote, but you should understand the vote as well.