In a world where politics are essential, teenagers are not receiving the amount of education they need in order to make an informed decision when voting.
Washington State currently requires that high school students take three years of social studies: one year of US history, one year of world history, and one year of an alternative social study. In order to graduate from high school in Washington State, one must also take Washington State History.
Nevertheless, high school students are not required to take US government, a vital class that enables an understanding of politics. Without a thorough education of the USA’s political system and current world issues, an eighteen year old that’s straight out of high school will set forth and vote with minimal background information.
“In average…most of America does not pay that much attention to the details of politics,” said Congressman Adam Smith who represents the ninth district of Washington.
A full education of politics starting in high school would help prevent the negligence of the American citizens when it comes to voting. However, some schools do not offer an effective mode of political education to their students.
Regardless, even without this class there are still other ways to educate yourself regarding political matters.
“One of the best ways to [educate yourself] is to interact with your elected officials,” said Smith. “They’ll figure out issues that are important to you.”
Talking with your elected official can provide you with more information having to do with issues in your community and national issues. This is one of the most reliable ways to become informed.
People that are not educated in politics begin to doubt their elected officials and lose trust in our government’s system.
“If people are not involved, not engaged, and don’t understand how the system works,” explained Smith, “they have a tendency to believe that it doesn’t [work] and ultimately that undermines a valid representative democracy.”
The result of a lack of trust in the government is a population that believes that their opinion is not accurately represented. But everyone’s opinion is important, which is why we must vote in the first place or else not everyone’s opinion will be represented in an election.
People that are under the impression that their views won’t make a difference when it comes to elections are completely wrong. Every vote makes a difference and without each vote, the elected officials don’t represent the true values of the citizens.
“We live in a representative democracy which means that the people elect the representatives,” said Smith. “The people ultimately decide who is going to be making the decisions that govern our country. The more informed [the people] are, the better those decisions are going to be.”
High school students should be encouraged to get involved in their community and form political views even though they’re not of voting age. Youth can get involved with activism dealing with issues they care about.
“If students are more involved in politics, they’ll get to learn more about the world and about themselves,” said RAHS senior Phillip Liu.
A more interested youth leads to a generation of driven people who want to make a difference and change the world for the better.
“A lot of habits get set when you’re younger and if you show an interest in public policy at a young age, it is more likely that that interest will continue on into adulthood,” said Smith.