Being a Learner During an Election Season
By Mr. Hussey, American Studies (US History) Facilitator
For a myriad of reasons, the 2016 election has captured the interest and passions of the nation. If one follows the expansive coverage of it on social media, television, or radio, they will soon encounter commentators using a style of combative, polarizing, and absolutist rhetoric that impels readers and listeners to take a stand. For high school learners closely following their first election, this type of rhetoric can be difficult to navigate. Young people have been thrown into this unique political moment, and tasked with not only their understanding of elections and politics, but also the social act of “talking politics.” Learners, however, are resilient, and throughout this election they have found ways to express themselves.
Three New Tech High @ Coppell juniors shared their reflections on what it is like to be a learner during the 2016 election.
This election is arguably the most controversial election in US history. Due to that fact, civilized conversation has proven very hard to come by. People seem to be motivated by emotion rather than logic and reason. I do wish that more people were open about their beliefs, and that they would respect the beliefs of others. Additionally, people seem to be dangerously uninformed or ignorant about both candidates. I believe that the mainstream media and people’s arrogance are to blame, as they are essentially forced to take a side in every issue. With ignorance, it makes it increasingly difficult to have a genuine political discussion. I’m opposed to simply yelling your own political agenda at the other side of the spectrum and expecting them to change to agree with you. I’ve always sought after purposeful discussions on why people feel the way they do.
During this election, I have not tried to talk about specific politicians with other classmates and facilitators as much I have focused political satire. I feel that most people at NTH@C would be open to a strictly policy discussion. As for the future of politics, this election should exemplify that our political system is structurally frustrating, to say the least. Both candidates have a substantial amount of controversy behind them and have extremely high public disapproval ratings. I honestly don’t know what path is right to take for American politics, but we can’t just sit around and let history repeat itself. We have to change for the better, and we can’t wait much longer than we already have.
As a young-adult with a well-developed understanding of my political views, I’ve never had an issue with expressing my thoughts and opinions. However, I’ve found myself surrounded by controversy during this election cycle. Among my peers, my views about this election are considerably unwelcome. Though conversations in the classroom remain fairly civilized, I’ve realized that once we begin to discuss the election on our own time, educational and productive conversation is difficult to have. Though many people strongly believe in individual rights, whenever I exercise my rights to express differing opinions I’m met with backlash. Though I work not to offend others while discussing politics, I will not compromise my beliefs in order to avoid offending others. No one has the right not to be offended. This being said, even as an outspoken individual with a developed understanding of my political beliefs, I still find myself avoiding specific issues for fear of being verbally abused because of my unpopular opinions.
It has been somewhat difficult to talk about the election at school. This election is unique in the way that people are extremely partisan, and so trying to talk with a person who is a supporter of the other candidate results in less “talking” and more “arguing.” I admit to being very vocal and stubborn with my beliefs and when I find a person like myself who doesn’t agree with me, it’s like an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object.
It’s because of this high tension between parties that most students will shut down their peers when they bring up the election. Even mentioning the candidate’s names during class results in at least three students saying “Okay, guys, let’s not talk about this.” I can appreciate this when people want to work, but sometimes it feels like no one cares enough about this historic event that we are living through. No one seems to watch the debates, and when they do, they just complain about having to watch it in the first place because their family made them. The best discussions I’ve had over this topic have been with my current events teacher and history teacher. While they were enlightening discussions, I want to have as deep of conversations with people my own age. I want to know how much my generation knows of different important subjects because some of these subjects will affect us greatly in our future. People don’t seem to understand that this election, and current politics in general, will affect us the most. If we don’t get involved, we won’t have any say in our future, and that can end up really, really bad.
I think that the projects we’ve done so far in history and in current events has helped create a possibility where people like me, who love to debate, can have the opportunity to stay informed on both sides of this election. I have gained more understanding for the opposing side and empathy towards their supporters. So, while there isn’t much of a community in the student body in regards to politics, I do feel like my school has made a welcome environment and opportunities for discussions on the election.
Information about the pictures:
Learners worked in groups to design, create, and deliver presentations about the 2016 presidential election including information on the candidates, party system, and electoral college. Each group also used the study of presidential elections from the Gilded Age as a lens to interpret the current election.