Modern Politics

Nargis Suleman, Editor-In-Chief (2022-23)

How much do you currently know about the 2022 midterm election results? How about the majority party of the house? Or even about the current US response to construction of Iran’s new nuclear plant? If your answer to even one of these is “I don’t know”, then you aren’t alone. In fact, as of 2021, the Harvard Institute of Politics reports there to be approximately 36% of adolescents who are likely to be politically engaged, even in knowledge alone. And while this is a significant increase compared to former decades, it is still worth noting that less than half of adolescents eligible to vote don’t have much of a sense of political awareness. The benefits of being politically aware, whether that looks like registering to vote early before the next election, or even keeping up to date on your political surroundings can assist you in becoming a more informed and educated participating member in your community. And while this is the case, the spectrum of politically aware adolescents, specifically students, varies greatly for different reasons, depending on the individual.
What does it even mean to be politically aware? Political awareness can often be referred to as the sensitivity or awareness that one has concerning policy, agendas, planning, and relationships occurring within the government, or political “squo.” This can exist in various forms, whether it’s knowing what is on the House of Representatives docket for bills in the next few months, or how current policy has changed on specific issues such as nuclear de-escalation, or security cooperation. Being politically aware doesn’t necessarily entail being knowledgeable on every single amendment and what alterations have been made to them, but rather having at least some sort of political awareness, even if the concept is only known to you because it is of interest to you. But what does it matter if you are politically aware, and what benefit or consequence can it even give you.
For adolescents, political awareness and engagement has shown an increasing urgency, as we are ultimately the leaders of the future. As cliché as this may sound, being aware of your political surroundings, issues that continue increasing partisanship (separation and lack of unity between parties), as well as where you may lie on the political spectrum, can all help you determine the role you will play in what the leadership of the future looks like. Additionally, the Harvard Institute of Politics states that an increase in political awareness can help you better understand the type of voter and participant in democracy you want to look like. The participation and awareness of your political surroundings and what is happening in the world, can better assist you not only in terms of knowing what is happening within your government that can affect you yourself, but knowing what the future could look like as well. And while the Harvard study determined the increase of political awareness within adolescents across the country, we decided to take a closer look into the student body at Blue Valley West.
Many students at BVW feel as though they are disconnected from the world of politics, and don’t see the real impact of what it means to be politically aware. “I had never really seen a necessity for me to know about politicians or whatever was happening in the government”, said an interviewee, who asked to remain anonymous. They go on to talk about how no one in their friend group, or in their family ever placed much of an emphasis on it, so it never seemed to matter to them, even later on. “After the overturning of Roe v Wade, and stuff like politicians and campaign slogans started popping up on my Tik Tok for you page, I think that’s when I started taking a little more interest in politics” they said, and they aren’t alone. After an uprising in
“controversial” topics and politicians, as well as agendas began increasing in popularity, so did the interest in politics for millions of adolescents across America. It was in the past 2 years that the Harvard Institute cited earlier, that there has been a significant increase in political activism and involvement in adolescents across the nation.
“I think that it’s really important for people to get out there and learn about what is going on in our world, and how people are leading the country we live in. I regret not becoming more aware much much sooner” they said. Feeling more connected to the actions and people that are deciding what the future could look like, is not an opportunity that citizens in every country have. But whether you are a republican, a democrat, an independant, or anything in between, the urgency for you to become more aware of your political surroundings could be seen as now more important than ever, as this generation is the next to fall into leadership. And while it may sound complicated, this could look like anything from listening to a few minutes of NPR in the morning on your way to school, to calling your local officials and advocating for matters that are important to you. Political awareness is a spectrum that you fortunately have a choice in determining where you place.
By now, it may feel like there is a big decision that you have to make, or you will never be able to have a say in what happens to you for the rest of your life, but that is far from the truth. Whether you decide to become more politically aware is up for you to decide, and remember that you could be able to decide what the future could look like.