Are Students Getting More Political?

Teens are expressing their own political opinions now more than ever.

From+medium.com

image courtesy of Medium.com

As teenagers become more politically active, the balance between the Republican and Democratic parties may shift.

Ryan Nash, Staff Writer

Trump, Clinton, Biden, impeachment, fake news– I could go on with hundreds of related terms, but the point still stands. Try to think of a day in the past five years or so when you haven’t heard at least one of these terms. I know-I can’t, and I’ve tried to stay away from hearing about politics. Heck, it seems that even a virus has been politicized! I don’t know if it’s always been this way, but a question that enters one’s mind is if the future of this nation, the young, has gotten more political themselves.

From the perspective of a high schooler, it is hard to tell. While it seemed to us the nation was becoming more political around 2016, we were at the age when we typically would notice and start to care about happenings in this nation and the world at large.

One way to get insight on if teens have gotten more political over time is consulting those who deal with them on a daily basis– their teachers, particularly those who would hear students talking about their opinions, researching certain topics, and showing an interest in politics. Such people are traditionally history teachers, English teachers, and librarians.

Ms. Wienand, is a three-year strong librarian at NASH. Interacting with students on a daily basis, her perception on the politicization of students was more location-based.

“It’s hard to say if students are significantly more political since I started teaching, but I do think that the students at North Allegheny are more politically engaged than the students that I have taught elsewhere.”

She remarked that she believes this to be the case because of the environment at NASH itself.

“I think that there are a wide variety of reasons that students are more engaged here. The first major reason is that there are more local opportunities for students to get involved in campaigns for candidates and policies. I also think that digital media campaigns have given young people more ways to connect than ever before, and as a result, students are more engaged with and committed to supporting political positions.”

Overall she considers this environment at NASH that allows for the cultivation of politicization a good thing with some possible negative impacts stating.

I think it is great to have citizens who are engaged in the democratic process, and it is exciting to see students working towards building the kind of world they want to live in. The challenge for those students will be to make sure they keep their focus on the issues that matter to them, no matter what their political alignment, rather than allowing a political party to dictate their values. I hope we continue to see students committed to being engaged citizens, but I hope the current vitriol will decrease.”

Mr. Lyons, a long time American history and Foreign policy teacher at North Allegheny, shared his perspective. 

Student interest in politics has stayed consistently involved in my time at North Allegheny. In general, the younger generation tends to be more politically active than most demographic groups on the whole.”

Much like Ms. Wienand, he considers this politicization to be a good thing with some downsides.

 “It is very rewarding to see students involved in the political atmosphere. That is the goal of a social studies teacher, to encourage active citizens in a democratic system. As always, concern occurs when extremes occur whether it is the extreme left or right, but that does not occur often with students. I love talking about politics with young adults, as compared to some contemporaries, because they are more open to ideas and opposing views. I believe it consistently stay the same at high level of engagement and involvement and that is a great thing.”

We need people willing to be actively involved and willing to try to change the government and society for the better.”

— Mr. Lyons

Ms. Tallerico, is an English teacher in her second year of teaching which means she has a good view on the politicization of students over the more recent years from both a teacher’s and student’s perspective. Quick in her answer of if students were getting more political or not she said a definite yes then expanded on her answer. 

“I believe the increase began with the 2016 election. Our country is currently experiencing a large political divide and students are realizing how much of an impact their voices actually have.”

Much like both Ms. Wienand and Mr. Lyons, she sees many of the same benefits of this.

“I think it’s vital for students to be civically engaged and politically motivated. When students discuss political topics, they are able to think through and form their own ideas in terms of politics. This practice helps young students identify issues they care about, which is important for producing future activists and national change.”

These few interesting perspectives show some trends and divergence on the topic of the politicization of students, but whether or not youth are getting more political it’s up to them to decide the political future of this nation and the world at large.