2020 was one of the first times I realized how intense a presidential election could be. I was in high school at this point, and though none of us could vote all of us had an opinion. For those of us who could drive, there were flags on trucks and stickers on bumpers. It was a tense day at school Jan. 7, 2021.
John Green once wrote in a Tweet, “Public education does not exist to benefit parents, or for that matter students. It exists to benefit the social order.” I quote this because for young voters, this is vital. It is one thing to be involved in politics, and a whole other to understand it.
That quote makes me think back to the kids with their flags and bumper stickers. How many of them were following in their parent’s footsteps and how many found their own path, I have no idea. But it was worrisome to hear a large sum talk about their favorite politicians like characters on a TV show, instead of people who could have the power to revoke or give rights at a whim. And the fights that would ensue could have put the 2020 presidential debates to shame.
There was something rather intense about how high-school aged people were so involved in politics the way that these kids were. The beliefs they associated themselves with almost ran their lives, their inner circles and the way they viewed the world. I wondered where they were learning, and if it was education.
They were only kids, after all. The rallies on Chick-fil-a doors and the protests on school grounds were a product of a generation consumed entirely by social media pressure and finger pointing. Politics were at home with them, at the dining table, on their phone, in their classes.
This is why I am glad that government classes are mandated in secondary and post-secondary education. As American citizens, we are granted the right to vote. If we do not know what to do with that vote, we are lost.
Referencing back to John Green’s quote, public education is necessary for a functioning society, something I have surely said before. Educating people on the brink of voter eligibility doesn’t just benefit themselves, it affects the country. It is a group effort. It’s important that communities are making an effort for political education.
Having the option to vote is necessary, but if someone decides not to, that is their choice. It is that the decision was made from an educated conclusion. Too many times people have declined to understand who is to become the decision maker for their city, state or country and what laws are going to affect their lives. They simply accept it.
Politics can be overwhelming, so it’s okay to not know it all. Understanding a politician’s stances on issues and what changes they want to make are a good first step, as well as knowing the branches of government. There are, of course, more things a citizen should know about their government. But it doesn’t all get learned in one day, and it is important to build the steppingstones now rather than later, especially for young voters.
This upcoming election, I hope that everyone who was so involved in high school will be there at the polls. It is crucial that young voters establish their place in political participation now. There are people out there who are betting on those lack of votes. It is the future of America that the eligible are deciding for.
Don’t let the chance pass you by.