Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

October 30, 2012
Teens have political interests but lack neutral sources

It isn’t infrequent to hear about the rampant problem of teen apathy in politics. Teenagers nowadays just don’t seem to care about politics like they used to. At the same time, another popular stigma attached to teenagers is that they tend to lean in politics toward whatever side their parents are on.

Which is accurate? Indifferent teens or opinionated ones whose opinions come solely from parents or guardians?

This year, I’ve had the chance to take a political science course, and I must say, my view of politics has been drastically altered. My teacher, though obviously educated and knowledgeable in his field, is obviously a Democrat. That alone would not be very remarkable. The remarkable aspect of this class comes with the heated debates that follow any biased comment the teacher makes.

Listening to students in my political science class argue, I will never again be able to say that teenagers are apathetic or ignorant of politics. Then again, it does tend to be a minority who take the class in the first place. My teacher has been known to shut down any opposing ideas to his own, so those who do answer, in my mind, are very brave. Would it be reasonable to assume, then, that the other political science students don’t care? Maybe some don’t, but I think the majority would just rather not fight with the teacher.

Of course, it would be false to say that there are not teens who are indifferent to politics. However, as statistics have shown — at least those shown in my aforementioned political science class — I think teen political indifference has less to do with the times and more to do with the age. True, maybe teenagers in the past cared a little more than we do now, but for the most part, I feel like we have a tendency to be wrapped up in ourselves, and by the time we reach adulthood and are more directly affected by the things going on around us, we are ready to more fully dedicate energy and thought to politics.

Personally, I have always logically understood the importance of politics. However, that does not mean that I haven’t been negligent — to say the least — in my following of and priority placed on politics in general. These elections, for instance, have found me more than once bypassing a presidential debate in favor of watching an episode “The Office” or reading a good book. The issues that I do hear about in politics, whether through my teacher, friends, the newspaper, TV, or, yes, my parents, definitely spark my interest. If I get enough of the facts, I have no problem forming my own opinion. It’s the getting-the-facts part that’s difficult.

I think the issue with teenagers today does not necessarily stem from a total apathy towards politics or from being too heavily influenced by our parents. Instead, the issue comes from a lack of education about politics. If our ideas tend to sound similar to our parents’, it is only because they are one of the only sources of information that we receive political feedback from. Naturally, it is our responsibility to research our own ideas, and many of us do take the initiative to take it a step further and learn about issues individually.

In the end, regardless of whether or not we can vote yet, political awareness is crucial, especially as we come closer to the age when we can vote. Hopefully I can be a little better at taking the examples of some of my other peers and educating myself on the political scene.

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