I will start by saying I am not trying to assert myself as a political junkie who meticulously follows every aspect of the political realm – although I may as well considering those I am about to compare myself with. More often than not I find myself scanning the headlines, at least making an attempt to stay in tune with who is leading the polls. After reading an article or two, three on my best day, I typically call it quits. I plan to vote this upcoming fall, so it might as well be an informed vote.
The other week, as an assignment for a journalism class, I was instructed to go out and speak to 25 students about the current Republican primary election. There was little doubt in my mind that a majority of the students I spoke with would have little to no clue what was going on. Not only was I correct with that assumption, but some students took it even further, not even knowing what I was talking about. Aren’t we supposed to be at a university?
Out of the 25 students I spoke with, 21 of them told me they were not following the GOP primaries this season. When asked why not, the most common response I received was an embarrassed smile and a simple “because it is boring.” Most other reasons were similar – “not interested by politics” or “I have no time with my schoolwork.” I am willing to bet if I had asked who had time to watch the Grammys last week, or who plans to watch the Oscars this upcoming week, the answers would be quite different.
Out of those 21 students who told me they were not interested in politics in the slightest, 16 told me they planned on voting this year. This struck me as both interesting and disturbing. I like to see that students, the up-and-coming young professionals in our country, are going to exercise their democratic right to vote. But one question has danced around my brain ever since collecting this information: how could you possibly feel qualified to cast your completely uneducated vote?
I posed this question to all the students that gave me these answers, albeit phrased more politely. Most of them told me that they would coincide their vote with their parents’ political affiliation. A few told me that they would begin following the candidates more closely as election time drew closer. It took a lot of self-control to restrain myself from laughing. Yeah right, I thought. Let’s be serious.
Perhaps a few people will actually cram politics down their own throats when it comes time to vote. Perhaps I talked to a minority within the student population by some chance. I would be surprised to find out either is true.
Our parents are from a different generation. Every kid has undoubtedly experienced a tale from “back in my day,” to which no relevant connection could be established to modern times. There are countless occasions where “you just don’t understand” seems to define your parents logic perfectly, yet now they are in the right mindset to tell you what leader best suits your own personal interests.
From my own experiences, I find that many children don’t agree with their parents’ views and beliefs on religion, drugs, education and sex. These are all prominent issues in the upcoming election. I think students would reconsider blindly affiliating themselves with their parents’ political views if they took the time to do a little research.
This is not meant to belittle anybody or any of the students I talked with. It was through my fellow students that I started thinking about this and the bigger issue at hand.
One day, our generation will be in office. The kid who sat next to you in class may be holding a seat in the U.S. Senate one day. She may be a Republican or she may be a Democrat. The point is that we live in a unique country where we have the choice to decide who leads us. We have different parties intended to cover the broad spectrum of political interests so every American can find someone who represents them.
I am not telling you to drop everything you’re doing and dive into the endless abyss of political chaos that surrounds our government. I do not plan on doing that myself. My point is to make you think outside your current mindset. The people in power make decisions that affect everyone’s daily lives, whether it may seem like it or not. We are at the age where the desire to be independent is starting to sink in. You make your own, informative decisions in your daily life, so do the same politically.
Josh Steinberg is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.