Opinion: There needs to be more of an emphasis on politics in public schools

Opinion: There needs to be more of an emphasis on politics in public schools

By Vivian Sanchez — @vivalaviviannn

As I sat down on Sunday morning reading through my collective newsfeed I tried my best to wrap my head around the political jargon in order to grasp the main points made in the last presidential debates. Right then and there it hit me: I barely understand any of this. I started thinking to myself, since when have I been so illiterate in political science? Do I even understand the policies and reforms discussed in these debates? Almost immediately I was confronted with the hard truth, there is not nearly enough emphasis on political studies in public school systems, and hinders the democratic process once adolescents reach adulthood.

In a country where democracy, freedom and representation are at its core, it would seem standard that government, civic, or similar classes would be offered up to the point of high school graduation. Unfortunately, that is seldom the case and a community suffers in the long run. As Kevin Meuwissen, assistant professor at the Warner School of Education, puts it, “A central role of public education is to empower students to think deeply about how we ought to interact with each other and work toward solutions to public problems in a democratic society.”

Without the proper education on what the government can do for its people and how we, the people, can contribute to our government it is impossible to expect well-informed decisions during presidential elections. Teens are expected to transition from high school and make decision regarding their next leader from one minute to the next and as a result we see disengagement. Thom File wrote that, “Overall, America’s youngest voters have moved towards less engagement over time, as 18 through 24-year-olds’ voting rates dropped from 50.9 percent in 1964 to 38.0 percent in 2012” in Young-Adult Voting: An Analysis of Presidential Elections, 1964–2012. Of course there are other circumstances one must consider when taking a look that data, such as unregistered voters and illegal immigrants; nonetheless, this number speaks volumes on the voting activity of young adults.

During my time at Rutgers University I had the pleasure of taking Media and Politics which provided great insight into the world of politics. One class made all the difference into understanding how political agendas are framed and how the public could be misled. I had access to a higher education environment which allowed unrestrained discussions and ignited the desire in me to further acquire knowledge. However, before that, my last government related course was “Civics” in the 7th grade. That is perplexing to me considering citizens have the right to vote at the age of 18.

When faced with this matter, NYU Alum Eddy Encinales, a political science major, agrees that, “[political] courses need to be taught until the last year of high school. I am usually the one in my group of friends explaining policies during campaigns because there is either lack of interest or knowledge from their part. And I feel that politics are an acquired taste that by the age of 20 is not appealing.”

Encinales’ viewpoint aligns with that of Emma Nozell’s. A trending topic on social media involves two teen sisters Addy and Emma Nozell who have managed to get a “selfie” with most presidential candidates. According to BuzzFeed News, neither teens want to pursue a career in politics but Emma said, “No matter what age you are [they are] going to be your president, so you should know what they say and think.” Knowing what each president wants to do for one’s country is important, but so is the way that one arrives to conclusions on what it is one agrees with.

Implementing new curriculums in any school system will always have issues with a budget. Others might argue in favor of other ignored subjects. Our future is in the hands of leaders still sitting at their high school desk. They need a solid base to understanding politics and  I believe this is only possible through more rigorous coursework in the field of politics.