The Official Student News Site of Parkway West High

Pathfinder

The Official Student News Site of Parkway West High

Pathfinder

The Official Student News Site of Parkway West High

Pathfinder

Drivers of change: Society’s role in the generational influence of politics

As+students+approach+adulthood%2C+it+is+essential+for+them+to+learn+about+the+status+quo+from+all+perspectives+possible.+While+in+school%2C+students+have+opportunities+to+engage+in+activities%2C+discussions+and+lessons+to+enhance+their+knowledge.+%E2%80%9CPeople+will+be+afraid+to+speak+out+on+their+political+views+if+they+know+that+those+around+them+disagree+with+them%2C+but+we+definitely+talk+about+political+issues+around+school.+We+encourage+people+to+share+different+political+views+and+make+sure+that+no+one+is+excluded%2C%E2%80%9D+sophomore+Ryan+Shabani+said.+
Emily Early
As students approach adulthood, it is essential for them to learn about the status quo from all perspectives possible. While in school, students have opportunities to engage in activities, discussions and lessons to enhance their knowledge. “People will be afraid to speak out on their political views if they know that those around them disagree with them, but we definitely talk about political issues around school. We encourage people to share different political views and make sure that no one is excluded,” sophomore Ryan Shabani said.

Make America Great Again. Finish the Job. Everyone’s Invited. Make America Normal Again. Declare Your Independence

With the 2024 presidential election less than nine months away, campaigns and debates are in full swing and controversies are hitting the general public from all sides.

On one hand, former President Donald Trump is in the midst of grueling legal battles: from a $355 million civil-fraud ruling to his removal from presidential ballots in Colorado, Maine and Illinois. Due to his indictments, the flurry of discourse surrounding his eligibility to run in the upcoming election has rapidly increased.

“There’s conclusive evidence that Trump has done all of the things he’s being questioned for. The fact that it’s still a question of whether or not he will actually get banned from running is insane,” junior Felicity Jackson said. “If you’re being actively investigated for crimes against your country, I don’t think you should get to run to be the head of [it].”

On the other hand, the contrasting probable option in the election — current President Joe Biden — isn’t out of the woods in the public’s eye either. At 81 years old, he is the oldest person to serve as United States president, prompting voters to question his mental and physical ability to serve another term.

“He’s the same age as my grandparents. I don’t know about [anyone else], but I wouldn’t want my grandpa running for president: [he] can’t even learn games. I’m not thrilled about the choices and I feel like I’m not the only one. A lot of people are upset with both the polarization of the parties and the fact that the US is stuck in this bipartisan system,” Jackson said.

Either way, the blatant pros and cons to all candidates are ubiquitous— and common knowledge — to almost the entirety of the teenage demographic. In an era of rapid communication and instantaneous news updates, Gen Z  has taken the realm of politics by storm. Due to this, society has an obligation to maintain an active political sphere for students through a multitude of pathways that ensure a future during which the potential of increased advocacy is realized.

Though our generation is the youngest group actively involved in government and current affairs, studies have proven that our knowledge and capacity regarding real-world issues are on par, if not superior, to older age groups. While individuals getting involved in the world around them at an early age may seem fine, it presents an issue that Gen Z knows all too well: navigating the harsh truths of reality too early in their lives.

Growing up with the world at our fingertips has brought several burdens upon not only this generation, but the next; keeping up with trends, beauty standards, constant comparison and the dangers of cyberbullying have plagued the lives of our youth for as long as they’ve known. One of those burdens is having an awareness of hostility within the politics and media.

“Media tends to push certain things out, depending on what you look at. If you see one political view or video once, it’s likely that the algorithm is going to push it out more,” sophomore Ryan Shabani said. “Sometimes social media can be biased and is very one-sided, but it can help open up people’s views to things they wouldn’t know or see otherwise.”

There is an upside and a downside to everything; platforms like Instagram, X, Facebook and Youtube may lead young susceptible minds down into an echo chamber, initiating them to mature faster, but they also expose them to issues both domestically and globally.

Take, for example, the Israel-Hamas war. Producing “some of the most visceral and engaging content from the frontlines,” as war correspondent David Patrikarakos said, appeals to an audience’s emotions; and with the engagement, the likes, reposts, shares and comments come racing in. Though the dispute has continued for over 75 years, the conflict’s popularity has reached unprecedented heights — further emphasizing the power of an online presence.

One of the largest displays of engagement in politics is the average voter turnout per generation. In the first midterm election, they were eligible, Gen Z had the highest turnout rate of the past four generations, further displaying their commitment to utilizing their voice. “School pushes the importance of voting and that your vote matters, they’re not obligated to educate our kids on voting, but they place an emphasis on it here,” junior Neeka Naghibi Harat said. (Triya Gudipati)

However, to fully understand, the true implications of political engagement on youth, we must look past the jugular social media, and onto other aspects of life that influence one’s encounters and experiences: namely, generational knowledge.

The first words we learn to say, the first faces we learn and the first belief we form is that of the people who raised us. Likewise, when it comes to picking a party or developing an opinion on a polarizing topic, our first inklings of thought enter our subconscious from our surroundings. 

“[My views] are similar to that of my parents. By third grade, my parents would talk about elections and that led me to develop certain political views. When you’re around someone [who] talks about having a certain view, you tend to get that view as well. That’s where a lot of people’s opinions come from,” Shabani said.

While around 70% of the teenage population display a similar belief system to their parents or guardians, like Shabani, that is not the only method of influence that surroundings and family dynamics have on a child. Over one-fifth of US teens identify as more liberal than their adults while seven percent consider themselves more conservative.

“My family’s views [stem] from Islamic beliefs, because I’m originally from a theocratic country, so our entire country is based off of them. Up until the age of eight, I was following Islam,” junior Neeka Naghibi Harat said. “[But now], I’ve definitely strayed away from it, and I’m super secular. [My beliefs stem from] more of how I feel and how I want to be treated versus what I wanted other people to see of me.”

The plethora of methods of forming views and obtaining information has resulted in Gen Z as a whole, being a diverse pool of voices and backgrounds who’ve begun leaving their mark on the world. Individuals such as environmental activist Greta Thunberg, U.S. representative Maxwell Frost and educational activist Malala Yousafzai have been knocking down the doors to change and the remainder of their age group has without a doubt been following along.

I believe very strongly what I believe in, and I want to share my beliefs with others to inspire them to believe the same, if not similar, things.

— senior Will Brown

At West, methods have been utilized to keep the discussion going — conversations we have with our peers foster critical thinking, open mindsets and healthy discourse. These talks are everywhere: facilitated debates in class, small chats with friends at lunch and in clubs like Diplomacy Club and Speech & Debate.

“There’s a lot of diversity here [at school], which is good and bad. [Bad] because it can lead to a lot of conflict, but [good because] you also see new ideas, as long as when you’re sharing these ideas, no one’s taking it personally and people are keeping an open mind. It just depends on who you surround yourself with,” Naghibi Harat said.

Though students are taught from neutral, bipartisan perspectives, courses such as AP United States History and AP United States Government offer a forum for this sort of discourse. Classes that promote discussion for students on the political sphere prove to be exponentially greater to a student’s comprehension than simply reading or lecturing. 

“In [AP US History], we were talking about capitalism and alternatives to it. I thought that was very interesting because I got to share my opinions, and I got to hear the opinions of my classmates and why they believe that. I get to argue against it and they get to do the same for my beliefs, and I think it’s fun,” senior Will Brown said. “ It’s good to start getting high schoolers interested in what’s going on. When we start talking about politics, I get a lot more engaged. A lot of [the] time, everyone has an opinion on politics and it’s [easy] to engage with students over it.”

The skills students gain from being exposed to politics in a healthy, structured manner extend to almost every aspect of life. Not only does it educate the future of governmental systems on the happenings in the status quo, it builds a mindset of commitment to the world and the problems we want fixed. 

“[School] helps you think critically. That is especially the goal of upper-level history classes. If you can think critically, that is half the battle to voting because then you just have to analyze how the people you vote for will affect policies,” Brown said. 

Critical thinking skills are invaluable in any stage and in any aspect of life. It is the driver of change, innovation, solutions and overall growth — even if students are not necessarily overly passionate about this particular subject.

All in all, when Gen Z takes the reins on the handling of our world, the burden they’ve initially been dealt has transformed into the reason they could shift the derailing of the national government as we know it. Generationally, society is expected to avoid political conversation in order to suppress the controversy that’s bursting at our country’s seams; however, with our generation, these discussions are the best way to keep the future of the world informed, involved and instrumental to the future of our political landscape.

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About the Contributors
Emily Early, Editor-in-Chief
Pronouns: she/her Grade: 12 Years on staff: 4 What is your favorite piece of literature? "Turtles all the way down" by John Green. Who is your hero? My parents, always. If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be? Realistically, avocado toast, but I really want to say blueberries.
Triya Gudipati, News Editor/Deadline Tracker
Pronouns: she/her Grade: 11 Years on staff: 3 What is your favorite piece of literature? "The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue" Who is your hero? Taylor Swift (JK, probably AOC). If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be? Krispy Kreme Donuts.
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    Will GonsiorMar 1, 2024 at 9:44 am

    I love this Triya!!!

    I think a lot of young Dems don’t realize how hostile the generations above them are to progressivism. The nation is increasingly comprised of independent voters who hate the rush to the wings of each party, which is how Biden got himself elected.

    This article gets at the root causes of political trends and is so informative. So good.

    Reply