We Don't Need More Political Engagement Until We Have Better Political Education

Common knowledge is that during an election, everyone, even the very least informed (of either party) suddenly becomes a political expert. In 2017, the attitude hasn't faded post-election. Strong emotion-inducing topics like race and healthcare on a national level and campus carry in Georgia have been at the forefront of 2017's politics. Of course, no one is too young or too wrong to post their opinion on Facebook.

As a political science major, I would be really excited about this newfound wave of activism. Or I could be, if I thought most people were getting their information somewhere besides Twitter or the one media outlet confirming their bias.

Although pop culture has become increasingly political, forcing college students and teenagers to think about gender politics and such, political efficacy among younger voters remains low. This is especially true in rural areas, where civic education is insufficient, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civil Learning and Engagement.

Thomas Jefferson ardently supported public education, believing equal school opportunities were necessary to a democratic-republican government. But I doubt the current system lives up to his ideals. Most millennials couldn't even name their senators, according to a 2015 poll. Still fewer, I'm willing to bet, can decipher what happens in the legislature. Most get their political information from social media. All have incredibly strong opinions on everything from race to more complex issues like foreign policy.

I disagree with raising the voting age. I'm not bashing college students specifically (because, my Lord, have you looked at Fox lately?). But I am firmly convinced that political education in this country is in sorry shape.

If we expect 18-year-olds to vote responsibly, we teach them to read up on politics, from more than just one news site, in high school. We don't let them graduate high school unable to name the state senator from their local district and the U.S. legislators from their state. We get them registered to vote, and we teach them to vote in local and state elections, where it counts the most.

Young millennials and the generation right after us are coming of age in a tumultuous political environment. It's characterized by emotional issues, misinformation on social media and problematic public school curriculum. This newfound political fervor provides exciting opportunities, but without better civic education, it's trash.

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