Samantha Adrianzen: Why are youth not participating in politics? Because they are not being taught how.

October 26, 2016

dsc_0586Below is Samantha Adrianzen’s submission for the Nation’s Student Essay.

She is currently a sophomore at Stuyvesant High School in New York and was a participant in Generation Citizen’s Democracy Education Youth Summit. She also works with the Citizens’ Committee for Children in her spare time. Although she enjoys advocating, she is also a lover of the Latin language, writing, science, and various television shows.

 

Based on my experiences and observations, the vast majority of adults describe my generation as lazy, ignorant, selfish, etc. Unfortunately, these adjectives have become representative of the majority of my generation. To me, these beliefs correlate with how young people feel and interact with the political system, especially in this upcoming presidential election. Frankly, I believe the central issue for my generation, in Election 2016, is that young people are simply uneducated on the political process and current events which affect their daily lives.

Frankly, I believe the central issue for my generation, in Election 2016, is that young people are simply uneducated on the political process and current events which affect their daily lives.

The first assumption most adults make is that a young person doesn’t want to partake in any politics, and that’s why our generation’s voice is “never heard.” However, I believe, it is because of a young person’s lack of knowledge in this subject. Why would someone partake in an event they don’t understand? In an attempt to educate their future generations about politics, only 8 states – California, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia – have developed standardized tests on politics and civics education. According to CIRCLE, as cited by the Huffington Post, of those, only Ohio and Virginia actually require students to pass it.

Despite these efforts, they found 80 percent of youth voters unable to correctly answer questions regarding their state’s early voter registration requirements. Additionally, the study found, this process only effectively demonstrates students’ abilities to memorize information, rather than their civic skills. This is indicative of a lack of political knowledge on something as simple as voter registration. Perhaps the other 42 states think my generation’s chances of increasing our political knowledge is slim; therefore, including a test would not help our case because we may merely just “memorize” the information, instead of retaining it.

…80 percent of youth voters unable to correctly answer questions regarding their state’s early voter registration requirements. Additionally, the study found, this process only effectively demonstrates students’ abilities to memorize information, rather than their civic skills. 

Unfortunately, even in states as prestigious as my home state of New York, it is not required for schools to offer civics education. In some schools, teachers aren’t even allowed to discuss politics with their students. Personally, I was fortunate enough to have one teacher spend some time teaching us about the political process in middle school. As a 7th-grader, I thought, this isn’t important; I’m too young for this. Despite my young age and limited amount of political knowledge, I realized there were various questions I never asked or answered. My questions include: How does the government pass a bill, or a law? How are presidents really elected? Uhh, my 7th grade self would say, the President makes all the laws, and the people pick the President. After many days learning about these processes, I now have a slightly better understanding of the Electoral College and the long process of forming a bill/law.

In retrospect, when I think about it, after 7th grade my teachers never discussed politics again. They were too busy trying to prepare us for standardized tests. Even as a high school sophomore, never once was a course in civics or politics offered to me or my peers. According to the Stuyvesant website, even in a “specialized high school,” I can only apply for a civics course as a senior. I wonder, is this the case for many of my friends in other high schools? Again, these practices contribute to my generation’s lack of political knowledge and disinterest of the political system. We are implicitly discouraged to participate in what is considered an “adult’s responsibility.” What should be told to my generation is that the government is there to serve the people; the government is affected by the people’s voice, no matter how young a person may be. Yet, we are told that our voice doesn’t matter until we reach the age of 18.

We are implicitly discouraged to participate in what is considered an “adult’s responsibility.” What should be told to my generation is that the government is there to serve the people; the government is affected by the people’s voice, no matter how young a person may be. Yet, we are told that our voice doesn’t matter until we reach the age of 18.

Although it may appear convenient for these courses to be offered to seniors, their learning experience will not actually begin until September, when they are in college or working. This means we will only have 2 months to learn and fully understand the political system before voting on Election Day in November. This might be an effective learning method for some young adults, but not all. The information is not fully etched into their brains yet, the way their multiplication tables are. With so little preparation, how do you truly expect any young person to accurately and confidently participate in Election 2016?

I believe we should stop informing our young people about politics at the last minute. As a solution, I feel these courses should be offered at a younger age, such as middle school or freshman year, to spark their creativity early on.

In conclusion, due to the timing of course offerings, a young person might not have adequate time to comprehend the political process. I believe we should stop informing our young people about politics at the last minute. As a solution, I feel these courses should be offered at a younger age, such as middle school or freshman year, to spark their creativity early on. As investor and philanthropist Michael Dell once said, “There is no better catalyst to success than curiosity.”

Works Cited:  “Civics Education Testing Only Required In 9 States For High School Graduation: CIRCLE
Study.” TheHuffingtonPost.com. TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc., 12 Oct. 2012. Web. 22
Sept. 2016 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/12/circle-study-finds-most-s_n_1959522.htmlv

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