Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


School of Education


Leadership Studies


Organization & Leadership EdD

First Advisor

Patricia Mitchell

Second Advisor

Walter Gmelch

Third Advisor

Richard Johnson III


The democratic practice of representative government in the United States is supposed to represent and protect its citizens. Since the United States abolished legalized slavery with the 13th Amendment in 1865, individual states have made many attempts to impede the civil rights and voting rights of African American citizens. Several pieces of legislation were designed to protect citizens, such as the Civil Rights act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In addition to overt legislated actions to thwart voting rights, the 26th Amendment of 1971 afforded citizens at least 18-years old the right to vote. Studies, however, have shown that the 18- to 24-year-old voting block consistently lags other cohorts in exercising the right to vote. Those studies presumed a flaw in the youths and rarely fully imagine systemic issues.

The purpose of this study was to view youth voting through the lenses of critical race theory and neoliberalism to gain insights into how students from San Francisco (SF) Bay Area community colleges perceived their development during high school influenced their engagement in civic activity. The researcher evaluated answers from the position that suppressed youth voting and moreover, suppressed African American voting, is systemic in nature.

This quantitative study was conducted with 84 anonymous SF Bay Area students who participated in an online survey that asked for their perceptions of which social structures—schools, families, community organizations, or religious organizations—most iii and least prepared them for civic duty such as voting. The study explored trust in social structures and asked specifically how well high school prepared them for voting in the 2016 presidential election.

Thematically, the study uncovered that the most effective source of voting training was from family members, followed by peers. High schools, the primary source of all other education, rated well below families in preparation for voting and in influence on how to evaluate candidates. Other social structures—religious organizations and community organizations—essentially did not serve as factors in the development of surveyed youths. Those two groups represented an opportunity to connect with younger voters if they are employed as a resource.

This study was not designed to uncover how specific high schools conducted civic education; that is a potential topic for future research. What was clear is that the State of California, the largest, most diverse state in the United States, places little emphasis on schools teaching civics, given that it is a 1-semester requirement for graduation in comparison to mathematics, which has a minimum of 3 years or English, which has a minimum of 4 years required for graduation.

The study results showed that due to the influences of critical race theory and neoliberalism, the actual incentive to improve knowledge and participation from young African American voters is limited, and potentially counter to the goals of those holding political power.