The 2016 Election: Are Seniors Ready to Vote?

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Olivia Baker It’s that time of year again — with Obama in preparation to relinquish the reign of his oval office and tensions between presidential hopefuls increasing as the primaries approach — when Americans, whether following the election or not, begin recognizing the issues within the country. Debates over which candidate to support, or perhaps to vote for, are frequent and we find ourselves choosing sides based on manifestations of change our candidates have proposed not only in speeches, but through the media, common chatter, and other sources of education. Having a Republican’s Club, a Harvard Model Congress, a debate club, and several social studies classes pertaining to politics, one could presume the students at the Latin School of Chicago are politically knowledgeable individuals. Perhaps our most informed grade, our seniors, are preparing themselves for a monumental milestone in their lives regarding politics — on the first Tuesday of November in 2016, seniors are eligible to vote for the next president, after the primaries, of course. Despite our academic based knowledge (as the Latin School, besides the media, is our main supplier of political information), other schools may not inherit the same well-informed personas — although conceivably these individuals from other schools may be just as informed of our nation’s political events. Through connecting with seniors from Highland Park High School and Parker, I was able to contrast the knowledge of Latin’s to their seniors concerning politics. The differences between the data were inevitable. The similarities, however, were overwhelming. The media, as aforementioned briefly, is our main source of political knowledge. From Trump’s frequent, typically frequently line-crossing tweets, to Jeb Bush’s old-school, occasional utilization of television for his campaign commercials, medium-users are exposed to several perspectives of politics from a diverse range of candidates. According to Tara Campbell (’16), a senior from Parker, and another senior at Highland Park High School, the news is where they gather the most insight concerning this year’s elections. Even if a student were not to willingly follow the elections through political debates and whatnot, they would still know of the candidates, as our potential future presidents are now, sadly, common names in gossip tabloids. With some news outlets primarily focusing on the gossipy aspects of candidates rather than their political platforms, it may now be more difficult than ever to find respectable sources of political information. But what Parker has, unlike Latin and Highland Park, is a brief education and discussion of today’s politics and current events in every class, no matter the material learned in the course. Sure, each of these schools understands the importance of the elections for their graduating class, but the schools, including Parker, only provide electives for an in-depth education on politics (Latin, for example, offers Honors US Politics as an elective for politically inclined juniors and seniors), not a mandatory education. Simon Ricci, having a somewhat interest in politics, states his opinion on the lack of compulsory modern politics education for not only seniors, but high school students: “I don’t think [the Latin School] make[s] it a priority, because they would inevitably be accused of pushing a certain agenda onto their students. I’m glad students have the right to their own beliefs, though I wish there was some way the truth could be brought to everyone.” Lack of mandatory discussion around politics isn’t why some seniors aren’t as informed compared to their peers—this may be a result of “not caring enough,” or perhaps a family’s strong political views persuading the opinion of their offspring. Seemingly, however, the seniors are well-informed of the Democratic and Republican views despite family perspective, as each of the interviewees presented, when asked, a list of what each of the parties wanted, are currently fighting for, and what they present to their followers and curious viewers. Topics such as immigration, taxes, and abortion rights were brought up for the Republicans, and as for the Democrats, education, healthcare, and immigration. Similarly, each of the seniors provided a detailed list of candidates and the parties they represented without flaw. Not surprising, since the media makes it hard not to know names like “Trump” and “Clinton.” When asked if they planned on voting in the fall, each of the seniors replied with a yes, no hesitation; however, when asked a question regarding the party they hope to represent and support, their straightforwardness on the possibly of voting was muddled by confused emotions. While the majority of Latin students seemed hardcore Democrats, the Highland Park and Parker seniors weren’t as committed, and preferred to “see how things pan out” rather than making a decision currently. Perhaps because Latin is generally such a liberal school, we unknowingly follow a Democratic perspective (despite the notable Republican’s Club) or are reluctant to voice opinions that may contradict the assumed political belief of our school. Like asking of the religion of a stranger, some say politics should be highly avoided in the workplace, but at each of the schools, politics seem to be a common subject, one that all, no matter their devotion to the election, can relate to. Some at the Latin School can tell you a three-hour long history of America’s politics, while some at Highland Park high school can name only three Vice Presidents, and vice versa. In the end, a philosophy is an opinion. An opinion can be shared by another person, but an opinion is ultimately yours. No matter the level of education a school provides, politics will always be an issue and a reality to each senior class, but it is simply the choice of the senior to follow the election or not. P.S. Fun Fact: Only one of the interviewees, a student at Parker, has watched a whole debate. As Simon Ricci impeccably puts it, “[debates] get to be pretty boring once everybody starts listening to/fighting with Trump or once Sanders concedes defeat to Clinton.” Without seeing this answer, I think the other interviewees inevitably agreed.]]>