Does the American youth even know what our government does?

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FHC’s new Model UN teacher Trevor Riley cares for the political engagement of his students. He believes that students should be more engaged in political activities. He believes that the younger generations could only benefit from being more informed.

“I think it is very important for young people to know what’s going on in the world,” Riley said, “specifically the causes and effects of things so we can identify how we got to someplace because at some point the world is going to be turned over to you guys, the young people. It would help us if you know what’s happening and what causes problems so you can make adjustments that you see fit.”

Compared to the average teacher, Riley is much more engaged. He said that if a bill was being passed, he would probably know about it, while a student might not.

Many people just are not engaged. The question is how can we make them more engaged? Riley believes he has the answer.

“I think when we’re able to make it relevant to people, we get more of a buy-in—when you see a connection and how you could affect your life, not down the road but immediately,” Riley said.

Civics teacher Jeff Manders, who concurs with this idea, proposes a way to make students feel politics are more important. The solution he stormed up is to make Civics a junior or senior class, and many other social studies teachers agree.

“There is actually talk right now in the social studies department, in FHPS as a whole, of moving civics or government later into junior or senior year where it would be a bit more meaningful and would involve more students—would involve students who are more directly impacted by things that happen in politics,” Manders said.

Like Riley, Manders also believes that most students really don’t know what is happening in government. When freshmen take civics, none of them really care about what is happening in the government according to Manders.

Of course, whenever there is a common trend, there is always an outlier. Senior Tony Dimeglio has always been into government.

He is one of the leaders of the Model UN club and has been a part of it for all four years. He is also a member of the PACE club.

Similarly to Manders and Riley, Tony also believes the American youth is politically uninterested, but not just high school-aged people. He thinks that even people in their late twenties are not politically active.

“The American youth are, statistically speaking, not engaged in politics at all,” Tony said. “We’ve seen a recent rise in 2018 elections with people under thirty coming out to vote in that midterm election; however, the rate is a lot smaller than the rate of voter participation and voter turnout among other age demographics.” 

Just like everyone else, Tony thinks that we need more political engagement; though rather than finding ways to make people more interested, he believes that the best way to make people more active is to find out why people are not active.

Hillary Clinton was supposed to win the elections, at least, that is what news channels reported; however, many young adults found her, simply put, not an interesting candidate.

According to Tony, a candidate must appeal to the youth’s issues for there to be change.

“One solution is to put forth candidates that will speak to young people’s issues and allow them to take time out of their college life and take time out of their maybe multiple part-time jobs in addition to taking part in a university,” Tony said. 

One solution is to put forth candidates that will speak to young people’s issues”

— Tony Dimeglio

Civics is a class to show students what the government is all about and why being engaged is important, so why aren’t more students interested? Manders believes that, with Civics as a freshman course, it is maturity.

“It feels like at least the majority of our youth, especially American youthfreshmen, sophomores, and youngeraren’t engaged very much at all,” Manders said. “Maybe part of that is maturity. Part of that is seeing how what is happening with government, what’s happening in our society, and maybe they don’t think it really impacts them, which, unfortunately, is the case because it does.”

Manders also teaches AP Government, where some of the best political thinkers go. 

According to Manders, the difference between AP Gov. and Civics is staggering. When freshmen take civics, they seem uninterested and uninformed, but the AP kids are something else.

“Now teaching AP Gov.⁠—especially with my juniors and seniors—most of them seem more involved, more engaged,” Manders said. “They’re up to date on what’s happening, and some of them are quite passionate about it. But again, those are AP kids who may be interested in political science as something to go into and study in college.”

Both students and teachers agree: the American youth is politically uninformed. They would rather avoid politics than help their country, but all that can be done is to try and encourage them to become active.