From a young age, I have fostered an interest in the United States’ political arena. I remember betting money on the outcome of the 2012 presidential election when I was only in sixth grade. To this day, I follow political leaders and organizations on social media and frequently check news sources to see what is going on in our country. At school, I have engaged in discussions (and even debates) with peers, both like-minded and not. And this year, I co-founded a new club at Gilmour, Lancers for Liberty, which opens the floor for healthy discussions about timely political and social issues facing the United States. This has led to me being deemed a “political student” by my peers. While this is understandable, it is somewhat unfortunate that other students are not doing similar things.
This is not to say that I am the only student who has an interest in politics and national news. I have friends on both sides of the political aisle who care about current events just as much as I do. However, there are many more who avoid politics at all costs. All high school students should stay informed about the news and begin to form political opinions independent of outside influence.
The first reason for this is quite simple: the United States of America is your country, and everything that happens within it has an affect on you, either directly or indirectly. You may think that U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia have nothing to do with you. But it does affect gas prices, which directly impacts your daily life.
American citizens, no matter their race or financial situation, are granted liberties that allow them to make their own success free from oppression or government interference. The Constitution and its amendments have laid out these freedoms. Though the document was written hundreds of years ago, the rights it allots U.S. citizens continue to be questioned and tested today. For example, the mass shootings that you might find in the news may seem distant and relevant for only a few days. But the subsequent push for tighter gun control has an impact on the Second Amendment, which directly affects your ability to buy and sell guns. This is only one example of how nearly all national news stories are relevant to all U.S. citizens, including high schoolers.
Second, most students become old enough to vote by the end of their senior year. Voting is a responsibility; not only are citizens expected to participate in elections, they also have the responsibility to educate themselves on the candidates and issues on which they will be voting. High school is the time for students to begin thinking about where they stand politically. Which of our nation’s values are most important to them? What current issues do they care the most about? These are the important questions that help determine political leaning.
Even if we have already formed educated political opinions, we should always be open to the notion that we could be wrong. That is where following the news and engaging in conversation come in. Paying attention to news stories can lead to a reconsideration of one’s beliefs. Reading about tragic mass shootings can touch the heart of even the most staunch conservative while the story of a child being murdered by an illegal immigrant might impact the most diehard liberal.
Similarly, discussing current events with family, teachers, and peers is crucial to developing informed opinions. If you only expose yourself to one point of view, then you will never understand where the other side is coming from. Forcing yourself to sit down and have a civil conversation with someone you don’t agree with (as we do in Lancers for Liberty) can help you better understand others and help you strengthen your own beliefs. It is important to know how to put into words why you believe what you believe. If you can’t, then maybe you are not educated well enough.
If nothing I have said has impacted you thus far, perhaps this will: politics are entertaining. No matter what your political leaning is, you have to admit that President Trump’s tweets are entertaining to read!
So, how does one begin to inform themselves on politics? The answer is simple. Spend five minutes a day reading the headlines on various major news websites. Pay attention to the trending topics on Twitter. Begin thinking about how these news stories make you feel. Read about the Democrat and Republican party platforms found on their respective websites. Which party most resonates with your beliefs? Develop those beliefs by discussing with others, especially those you disagree with. And join Lancers for Liberty!