Turn on the television. Flip through the channels. Stop on your favorite channel; unfortunately, there’s a commercial on. Flip to another channel. There it is again, another commercial on “fixing America,” or “changing the future.” Another
candidate’s face, another message about healthcare, or social security, or another slander campaign.
Drive down the street. Look at the beautiful scenery. Move your eyes down towards the edge of the road. Look at all the little 18’ X 24’ red, white, and blue signs congregated around one corner. George Amedore, Cecilia Tkaczyk, Andrew Cuomo, Rob Astorino.
What is it all for? Why is your mailbox suddenly flooded with flyers, and your phone tormented with robo-calls?
Two words: midterm elections.
Unsurprisingly, not many people in high school know what the Midterm Elections are, or the results of these elections.
Now, that doesn’t mean people can’t recognize names at all; most students can recognize certain names when they hear them. While not all could get GOP, and usually mumbled “government something?” by just by taking a quick survey during lunch one can find a more than expected number of people who know who Andrew Cuomo and George Amedore are. Some people could even recognize John Boehner, and Patricia Fahy.
Just recognizing names though isn’t what politics is about. It’s more than just “I saw those ads,” as some students responded. Politics is about recognizing what the election of these people means for our country.
When the news says that the Republicans now hold majority in Congress, it is not important necessarily to know that as a fact. It’s not necessarily important to know any of these facts: whether this person or that is in the senate or the house, or who holds the majority and minority leaders are. This said, It is necessary to understand what implications of those facts are.
This is where we, as high school students, tend to fall short. We can recognize certain facts, like who Joe Biden and Barack Obama are, and that they’re Democrats. But, very few of us could analyze what that means for our country, and our future.
Some may argue that we don’t need to understand anything about politics right now because we can’t even vote yet. Everyone interviewed, though, said that they do believe we should be more aware of what is happening in politics.
Freshman, sophomores, juniors, and seniors alike all agreed that it is important to keep track of these elections and politics. As Kierstyn Gonzalez, a sophomore, explains, “I think it’s important to be involved because when we get out of high school we’re going to be in this, and we need to know who were voting for, what their purpose is, and we need to be able to speak out for our country, and say I’m voting for Democrat, or I’m voting for Republican, and what they’re presenting to the public, and listen to the news to know what is going on.”
Senior Ben Phelan agrees, “It’s our future… It’s dangerous if you vote and you don’t know who you’re voting for and who represents what you’re voting for. ” Dave Septer, another senior ads, “We’re going to be 18 never year and we can vote, everyone should know.” The decisions made by elected officials today will affect our lives in the future, so it is important that we understand what’s going on now.
Yet, in this past election only about 1/3 of the whole voting age population cast their ballot. In a country that is based on democracy, on casting a vote, thousands of people are giving up their voice within the country. Effectively allowing the few to speak for the many.
So why aren’t we paying more attention to politics? As one junior commented, “I think I should, but I don’t because… I don’t know.” This was a common response from most students, but some were more honest, and explained that politics is just plain “boring.”
Although political debates aren’t always the most exciting things to watch, ultimately we need to learn how to get involved now so we don’t make poor decisions later in life. We all admit how important it is to know about the world around us, so why not start now? It’s easy to get updates on your phone from credible news sites. That’s all it takes.
Yet, what about our own school government elections? Most people we asked didn’t have any idea about the results of the election, or that it was even going on. “I got the letter, but I didn’t read it,” responded one sophomore.
When asked senior Sunshine Edwards why she didn’t vote she responded, “It’s a glorified popularity contest, you already know who’s going to win once you vote.” This is our one chance to vote and have a role in our school’s choices, which will have a daily impact on our lives, yet we barely place any emphasis on the task.
This is mostly because most people don’t really care about what happens in these elections. There’s usually only one person on the ballot anyway, people say. Everything will just work itself out. But, if we get into this mindset now, will we change it in the future? Can we afford to be indifferent about the elections that make our country a democracy?