Lack of political interest due to poor education

By Stefan Herlitz

Politics, a subject essential to the continuance of a civil society, is being left behind in education. The current American education system focuses on math, science and technology, while social studies lag behind, especially in the political sphere. Teachers focus on geography and history, while ignoring the importance of civics. This absence of political thinking is not only in our schools, but also in our homes. Parents are reluctant to wish public office upon their children and instead guide them to a different, perhaps less important, occupation.

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Social studies teachers are directing their students’ attention too much toward the past, when they really should be using their time to teach government and politics. While most students can’t vote, they should at least begin to form a basic comprehension of not only the political structure, but also how the government relates to the life of the average citizen.

While it’s nice to present the “three branches of government” and how a bill “becomes a law,” educators should elaborate on state and local governments, which have a larger influence on people’s lives. To provide this education would allow students, when they grow up, to make better decisions based on wiser and more thoughtful opinions.

School is not the only source of education; in fact, parents teach their children basic life skills, one of which is the ability to analyze and evaluate current events. Besides telling their children what they believe, parents also need to teach their children how to learn and help them make rational judgments for themselves. While watching a news report of an election or governmental issue, parents should encourage their children to pay close attention instead of just dismissing the problem and telling them what to believe.

A Gallup poll shows that 64 percent of American parents don’t want their children to pursue a political career which explains why they neglect to give their children an adequate understanding of politics. If parents don’t shake this habit, when their sons and daughters become adults, they won’t appreciate their rights and how much power they actually have over the government as much as they should.

Other than school and family, there is one more educating force: the media. Political commercials and endorsements can be very misleading to children. The ad creators view their campaigns as fights in a competition. Well, it is a competition, but it’s not to see who can do more damage to his or her opponent; it’s a fight to see who will best repair and heal society. So political apathy is not only the schools’ fault, but the media’s as well. The media’s problem isn’t what they show, but how they present it.

The lack of political interest results from a lack of education in civics, the negative way in which families react to the government and the media’s  poor representation of political events. Schools have to incorporate the importance of politics into their lessons, families need to teach their kids to analyze what politicians have to say (instead of judging them by appearance or their party) and the media has to actually compare the candidates and their positions, instead of just saying “this person is winning” and “this person is losing.”

Stefan Herlitz is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]