Chamblee Students Call For More Political Participation
It’s beginning to look a lot like election season.
On November 8, eligible voters will flock to the polls and exit with an “I’m a Georgia Voter!” sticker and a feeling of contentedness at having fulfilled their responsibility to the country.
Not even Chamblee students are immune to the election fever setting in. Many plan to vote in this presidential election and make their voices heard, and are calling for their peers to do the same.
“Every vote counts,” said junior Emma Axelson. “People might say, ‘oh, there’s millions of people voting, I’m not going to vote,’ right? But when a million out of the three million say, ‘oh, my vote isn’t important,’–your vote is important.”
Axelson’s reminder is not be ignored in light of election demographics from previous years. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 45% of youth aged 18 to 25 voted in the 2012 presidential election, the lowest of all eligible age ranges.
Politically active students easily drown out this silent majority, but that doesn’t mean their presence always goes unnoticed. Junior Jacqueline Jordan has experienced this sense of apathy first hand.
“I try to talk to my friends about politics and they’re like, ‘oh yeah, I don’t really have an opinion because I don’t know that much,’ or ‘I don’t really want to have an opinion.’ It’s so annoying and confusing.”
Senior Rachel Jovert commented on the lack of political discussion as well.
“We see so many people just staying silent and kind of going with the majority because they’re too afraid to have different opinions,” said Jovert.
Senior Joshua Monroy also wishes that more youth would get involved with their government, because young people are the ones who will have to live with the effects of policy changes.
“The amount of elderly that come out to vote, that really changes [the outcome],” he said. “By the time it starts affecting anyone, it’s going to be us, not them. We all have to change this. We need to come to together.”
When asked why their peers did not vote, students suggested that politics and politicians were not appealing enough to youth. Others felt that a lack of knowledge results in students staying out of the political realm altogether.
“Young people usually don’t keep up with what’s happening in the news. They don’t know anyone’s stance, like where they are on immigration or anything like that, so they’re just lost,” said senior Asia Mitchell.
Junior Gabby Miller, for example, finds politics to be a rather disappointing subject.
“To me, the people in politics right now are about money more than anything else,” she said. “So it just gets me mad whenever I watch something about that.”
The relatively low level of political activism is not something new to this generation.
“I was not as politically active as I like to think I was,” said Social Studies teacher Robin Mask-Bareford. “I voted, but I didn’t really get involved with any campaigns. I just talked a lot and voted.”
She suggested that a government or civics class during senior year could be helpful in encouraging youth to be politically active.
“I think that some young people are very informed,” she said, “but they don’t actually take their information and work with campaigns, or go out and talk to people.”
One example of a politically informed youth is junior Monica Berg.
“I try to not be out of the picture,” she said. “If people are discussing a certain topic, I know what they’re talking about and then I can put my input into that.”
Other students, like Jovert, found that the classes she took at Chamblee helped her to expand her political horizons.
“I’ve always been really interested in government and foreign policy,” she said. “I think taking AP World History and AP Human Geography at the same time… I was able to learn a lot of things on a broader scale about government and politics in general. And then taking APUSH after that, I really was exposed to a lot more policy and political debate than I’d ever been before.”
Senior Hannah Wilborn also credits her classes, and specifically Mr. Rubino, a former social studies teacher at Chamblee, with helping her to grow her political interest and views.
“He was very good about teaching us to make our own informed decisions based on the history that we were learning,” she said.
Jovert and Wilborn both find Chamblee to be a great place to discuss political views.
“If you’re in a high school like Chamblee, where you have a huge diversity of people, it makes it easier to form your own opinions,” said Wilborn.
Being part of the political system goes beyond voting. According to Jovert, debate among friends is a great way to become a more active and critical participant.
“Even though we clash on a lot of things, we can still talk about it in a mature way,” she said. “It really challenges me and it challenges my beliefs; sometimes I change them and sometimes I reinforce what I already believed.”