It's once again that time of year: the most wonderful time of the year. We are officially on the brink of the holiday season. Every college student I know is counting down the days until they get to go home for a nice break. However, many of us are collectively dreading one thing: family gatherings.
Now, this is not to say that we don't want to see our families--we do. We miss them like crazy, and they're most of the reason we want to go home. What we're dreading is the inevitable conversations about politics.
Even though it's on the taboo conversation list, politics always seem to come up at family events. I mean, isn't it a societal assumption that families share the same belief system? I would argue yes, and so these conversations often come up as a result of the assumption that in a room with your relatives there shouldn't be much controversy regarding this topic.
Many Gen Z-ers (yes, Gen Z, most current college students are not Millenials) will be heading home after voting in their very first election. In Champaign County, home of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, there was a record early voting turn out, leading many Illini students to wait in lines over two hours long to vote the day before the election as pictured above. Our generation turned out for one of the most important elections in a long time--and we have our opinions about it.
In the era of Donald Trump, young people feel the need to speak out for what they believe in, and oftentimes that means voting liberal. Conservative families are probably going to take issue with that, and they'll make that claim that their college student "came back liberal."
Those family members fail to realize that their student has not been influenced by their "extreme" professors. Rather, they've likely been presented with information that they didn't know before--information that could change the way they see the world and therefore politics.
I've noticed this change within myself even. I've learned a lot here lately.
I didn't know that the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world.
I didn't know that DACA was only offered to a very specific group of undocumented immigrants who came over as children.
I didn't know that "poor smart kids" often don't make it through enough of their education to work their way up for reasons out of their control.
I didn't know that approximately one in four female college students will be raped in their time on campus.
I didn't know that members of the LGBTQ community are twice as likely to use illegal drugs than those that identify as heterosexual.
I didn't know that only 3% of Planned Parenthood's services performed are abortions.
I didn't know.
If I had this knowledge before coming to school, I probably wouldn't have changed as much as I have. College is great because it opens up students' eyes to the world around them and exposes them to more people, cultures, and ideas than they ever could've imagined existing. We come to universities to learn, and there's so much more to be learned than what we find in our textbooks. So why are students under attack for doing just what they set out to do?
If the facts are changing our political beliefs, that says something about the way political parties have influenced our society. However, that's beside the point right now. What's important is that families accept that their students have had the opportunity to learn and that they open up their minds to the information that their students have learned. Our nation is going through a big change right now--a change college students want to be a part of. I mean, it is our future.