By Hannah Bensen, Editor in Chief
Last week, a high school library aide was prevented by school administration from setting up an information table regarding the 2016 elections.
The display would have equally included books, bumper stickers, and buttons for the Democratic and Republican nominees in the elections for president and US senate. The intention was to educate students, not endorse a candidate.
The administration’s decision speaks to their desire to avoid the controversies that have hounded the presidential election since it began last November. However, just because something is controversial, that does not mean it should be taboo. Instead, these conversations should be embraced because the alternative solution, ignoring the issues, leads to uninformed voters. After all, if we can’t discuss politics at school, where can we discuss it?
Still, this administrative decision, which followed district policy regarding controversial topics, is indicative of a much larger problem that has less to do with the educational system and far more to do with the American political system as a whole. It says a lot about our current political process that it has been deemed inappropriate for school discussion.
This year’s political conversation has strayed from policy and has instead centered around the candidates’ ability to manipulate their opponent’s image while remaining favorable with the public. The media has focused on the scandals of each of candidate that, while relevant, are distracting citizens from the real issues.
It is important to note that this presidential election has been many younger millennials’ first real taste of American politics. This election is our first time truly paying attention to the candidates, formulating personal opinions, and for some of us, being able to vote.
This exciting rite of passage quickly devolved into something that more closely resembled an episode of your favorite soap opera. The candidates became increasingly hostile with each other as they vied for our support.
The sad part is that it seems that the default mode for discussion surrounding the candidates has become hostility. Not only are we quick to criticize the candidate’s policies, but we have recently moved to attacking the candidates’ personal lives and integrity.
This exciting rite of passage quickly devolved into something that more closely resembled an episode of your favorite soap opera.
What is even more disheartening is the cynicism with which millennials have begun to regard American politics. A common sentiment for many millennials is that “the system is broken,” and we worry that neither candidate can fix it. We characterize one candidate as a liar and the other as a racist, and complain that both options are terrible.
However, what we have forgotten is that we had more choices available to us. We had the chance to select more satisfactory candidates, but we were either too uninformed or too uninterested to participate. I am, of course, referring to the primary elections, a process that took around four months to complete.
It is also important to remember that the president has a limited amount of power. The Constitution established divided government for a reason: in order to prevent one person from becoming too powerful. Congress has far more power than the president ever will.
For this reason, it is just as important to be informed about the Senate election. However, the average high school student could not name the two candidates running for senator in Wisconsin, Ron Johnson and Russ Feingold. This is why schools cannot shy away from talking about politics. Doing so creates ignorant voters who do not know how to fix the current political climate.
The lesson we have learned from this election is that politics is not something that we can be interested in every four years for a couple of weeks. As citizens of the United States, it is our responsibility to be active members of the political process. In fact, it is to our advantage to be involved in the process.
Since I can’t vote this November, I am planning on cautiously watching and reading the news while avoiding media coverage that only discusses the horse race. Maybe it’s my millennial cynicism talking, but I am relieved this year’s race is almost over.
(Photographs by Hannah Bensen, Editor in Chief.)
The Current welcomes submissions from all students, faculty, administration, and community members, but reserves the right to edit for length or content. Any column, editorial, or letter to the editor expresses the opinion of the author and not necessarily the entire staff.
6 responses to “This Election Shows Why Millennials Need to Be Informed and Serious”
WOW! What an article!
I agree with many of your thoughts about the language and tone of this campaign. It saddens me that it has turned off so many millennials to the political process, or that the lower the campaigns go into the muck that more students think of it as a joke or employ the callous words that our future leaders have used. Thank you for recognizing the need for our students to get and stay informed.
As a member of the establishment media (because as an editor of an award-winning publication that’s what you are now 🙂 ), I find it slightly ironic but certainly pleasing that you would advocate for media consumers to be critical thinkers when it comes to the political coverage that is out there. Note to your advertising crew – you can’t make money when people read someone else’s paper!! So what sells? Maybe, if more media outlets like yours focus on the aspects of the news that does and should matter to this school, such as the objective journalism and displayed in the first two paragraphs (I had no idea about the library display – that’s all news to me), then we would be more likely to trust the news not as bringers of “info-tainment” but genuine agents of political socialization.
Keep up the good work.
What the library aide was doing is exactly what all schools should be doing with this election, educating students on the candidates so they may make informed decisions! School is the ideal place for these discussions. I can’t imagine why the administration chose not to educate the student body on the election. Thanks for bringing this to our attention.
I agree with Mr. Zappia!
Why does the school recognize only two political parties and candidates – what about the others?
Thank you for your thoughts on this issue. It’s a sad day when places of learning are afraid of an exchange of ideas.
Hannah, you continue to amaze me with your writing. I am proud of you for taking this controversial issue head on. I too am disappointed that many have used cynicism as an excuse. We all need to take an active role in our political process every year, not just during a presidential election. Only then will we be able to see change. Keep up the fantastic work!! Hannah- you will be the change we wish to see in the world! 🙂