“I just don’t feel like voting” and “I don’t think I’m going to vote this year” seem to be rather popular phrases among my peers as Nov. 6 approaches.
I know it’s not just young people who tend to be chronically absent from the polls, but still 49 percent of young people didn't exercise their right to vote during the 2004 national elections. It’s choosing the next leader of this country, for goodness' sake!
I think we young Americans have to do much more than just show up at the polls, though.
Not-for-profit programs like “Rock the Vote” are excellent tools for empowering young adults to cast their votes – but what about informed votes? Watching the news, reading newspapers, and just paying attention to what’s going on in the world are responsibilities new voters can't be running away from. Simply knowing about the candidates and being aware of world issues are crucial for young people struggling to find their position on the political spectrum.
A Harvard University study conducted in 2007 revealed a whopping 60 percent of young people may be considered inattentive to daily news. The study also found American youths tend to prefer "soft news," like celebrity gossip, over current events regarding politics.
However, it’s not hard to understand why it’s difficult for young people to keep up with current events. Teenagers and young adults are so ridiculously busy nowadays, with school, jobs, sports, extracurriculars -- the list goes on. So when young people do have a little time to, say, catch up on world issues, oftentimes “soft news” is the news of choice, merely because it is easier to understand and allows for some leisure.
Keeping up with politics doesn't have to be a one-legged race, though. Nearly every news media outlet -- such as CNN, Fox News or MSNBC and The Times Media Company -- has a mobile app teenagers can use to easily sift through current events.
From an educational perspective, I also think teachers can also be instrumental in helping young people cast informed, meaningful votes. When teachers take time to incorporate current events into class activities, students are given the opportunity to continue developing their political opinions, not to mention obtain a greater understanding of material being taught in class.
In terms of following current events, it doesn't really make sense that leaders of the future should have little concept of what’s going on in the present. Having the right to vote – and exercising it – is an important step into adulthood, but it does little good for young people to vote without having done a little homework.
Micheala Sosby of Portage is a senior at Chesterton High School. The opinion expressed in this column is the writer's and not necessarily that of The Times.