In 2008, my preteen mind was consumed with hopes of getting my braces off rather than the beginning of the recession. I never thought about how fortunate I was to have health care because my pediatrician’s office was simply a room overflowing with Sesame Street merchandise that my mother dragged me to once a year. 9/11 was a tragedy that marked my first day of kindergarten, but I was oblivious to its political significance.
I am more informed now, but when listening to the first Presidential debate, I realized how much I still don’t know. All of my history courses have increased my knowledge of eras past, but I’d never been regularly questioned about current issues until I encountered my first news quiz in my tenth grade history class. Tested on content from the Los Angeles Times, I did not have a problem remembering the week’s news, but I lacked a deeper understanding of it.
I still don’t fully understand how the economy works or what causes it to collapse. I still do not entirely comprehend the arguments against universal healthcare. Reciting facts from a newspaper will not further my ability to be a well-informed citizen.
It makes more sense for students to self-educate. Though I know it is very hard, even nearly impossibly, to fit more work into the AP history curriculum, students could be assigned a political issue to read up on each month and instead of taking a quiz they could write a short paragraph analyzing their topic. Students would be well versed in political issues, rather than simply memorizing them.
I am not the only student who seems to be lacking information. In my eighth grade history course, the student sitting next to me exclaimed “America is the best. Why should I learn about anywhere else?” Our British teacher Matthew Cutler responded with a pop geography quiz the following day on every country in the world.
“Afghanistan,” Cutler said, “You should know where it is, considering your country is fighting a war with it.”
A chorus of sighs burst out as most of the students failed to correctly label the country. Hustling out of the classroom, I heard a classmate saying she knew we we’re fighting a war there, but had no idea why. Learning Afghanistan’s location is a simple task, yet we were not truly aware of major foreign affairs. If we are not up-to-date on these matters it is impossible to formulate opinions.
As I approach voting age I find it crucial to be 100% informed about political issues. In the upcoming election many Harvard-Westlake students will be eligible to vote. It is important that they are not solely replicating the ideas of parents or friends, but are using their own knowledge to cultivate ideas.
Just because some students cannot vote does not mean they shouldn’t be informed. Educated minds are not only useful when it comes to voting, but also in day-to-day conversation. I constantly hear people on campus conversing passionately about their opinions, yet rarely feel confident enough in my political awareness to engage.
When 2016 comes around and I, as well as my classmates, am able to vote in the election, I hope that we will be as informed as possible.