Student Interest in Politics

Rachael Law, Author

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Think about it-Do you know what’s going on in politics today? Sure you saw articles and twitter posts on the Kavanaugh fiasco. Maybe you hear debates and conversations on current issues. But as a student, do you really know what’s going on in our country today?

Sometimes our generation seems to be in the dark about politics and current events.

In most cases, I find that people usually adopt their parents’ beliefs, which supports the nurture side of Francis Galton’s ‘Nature vs Nurture’ theory. Parents can’t fathom their child rebelling against what’s been discussed at the dinner table all these years. They often work to indoctrinate their children with a designated political viewpoint.

Once this happens, our brains become wired to accept opinions as fact without hearing both sides of a story. Our way is the right way and everyone else is wrong.

But why does this matter and who cares what my opinions are? As the rising generation this actually matters a great deal. The leaders of our country tomorrow are sitting in the classroom today. And the problem with that is we don’t always have open minds.

But why don’t we know what’s going on today? A big factor is our news sources. Sitting in the cafeteria reading Taylor Swift’s Instagram rant is not going to educate you on Tennessee’s Senate candidates. We follow certain pages to only see what we want to in our news feed.  Another factor is fake news. Originally known as ‘yellow journalism’, fake news goes back as long as there’s been press. And we’re influenced by it every day. It’s important to make sure you’re getting your information from credible sources so when we have debates or discussions we know what we’re supporting.

Not all of our sources come from online though. A lot of our information comes from school. Politics and religion have always been questionable in the classroom. To what extent can you discuss these? I believe Oakmont does a good job at educating its students on such things. Many of my classes have consisted of a variety of debates and discussions. Some classes that you might not expect, such as English and Psychology.

Our teachers do their best to enlighten and prepare us for life as an informed, active citizen. Freshman year, I recall learning the basic fundamentals of our government in World History with Mr. Stiles. I gained the basic knowledge of three branches and their powers; However, it was my sophomore year when I had my epiphany. An unexpected class, Women in World History, taught me the most about not only the government, but also about myself. This was the year of the 2016 Presidential election. Ms. Martin gave us an unbiased week of lessons all about the election. I was able to discuss -at length I may add- every question on the ballot and how I felt about it. I learned the importance of voting but more importantly where my political beliefs stood. From that, I developed a hunger for knowledge about my country and the problems that we are currently facing.

Along with good class lessons, Oakmont also has a political discussion club. After speaking with members of the club I learned a bit about what a normal meeting looks like. Usually Mr. Uminski or Mr. Ethier will come up with a discussion topic for the day- most likely  an event in politics from the last week. The 10-12 members will sit around and discuss the said topic. This is a good way for students to stay involved and informed outside the classroom.

Oakmont’s main goal isn’t to make you chose a side or run for president someday. But when politics come up in the classroom, we know how to approach it to fully educate our students. Which is just what this generation needs.

If anyone has had English with Mr. Caouette, you know his class consists of debates on all sorts of topics from Brett Kavanaugh to John Lennon. But even after an entire semester of reading novels and writing essays, there’s one thing that he hopes you take away. “You should read something every day that you don’t agree with.”

I find myself thinking about this a lot and how much I agree with it. We’re never going to be fully educated if we don’t have all the information. Finding something everyday you don’t agree with, will keep our minds open to other ideas and driven to learn more.  I hope all my fellow peers and kids of my generation will be inspired to learn more about this country and realize their importance in it.