By Nevaeh Morgan
“Teens are too immature for politics.”
We’ve all heard the above statement before, but does that make it true? Let’s be honest here, most the people who say that are a bunch of old men who can’t stand the thought of a democratic vote. And according to my tenth grade government class, old men are more apt to vote republican, while the younger ones vote democratic. But that’s not to say all teens will lean left, it’s just that we all need ways to tame our political curiosity. Of course, there will always be those people who think their vote won’t matter, but for the rest of us, politics are a big deal (especially on social media) and understanding what’s going on politically needs to start at a younger age so we know what we’re doing when the time comes. I cannot tell you the countless times class has turned into a heated debate. Often, my classmates literally compare Donald Trump to GOD when trying to convince me that he is “the greatest president America has ever seen.” The teachers may find it extremely disruptive, but for me it goes way beyond being an annoying interruption. I want my peers to know how to have a civil argument and be able to provide information in an organized manner rather than just repeating what they hear from their parents.
Teens need a way to learn about politics in a healthy way. Luckily, there are multiple teen activists and programs organized to help young people finding their voice in politics and get involved in supporting good causes.
One of the major surges in teen activism in recent history came from the high school students of Parkland, FL. Within less than a week after a horrific school shooting, the Parkland survivors were already organizing trips to demand tighter gun regulations, starting marches, and were creating twitter hashtags related to gun regulation. Survivors like Jaclyn Corin, Sarah Chadwick, and Cameron Kasky all played a part in founding #WhatIf, completely centered around controlling gun violence. Another activist, Emma González, helped lead March For Our Lives and spoke out on gun control. These high school students are taking their disadvantages as teenagers and completely crumbling them by standing up for themselves and everyone else in the nation who is at risk without higher restrictions on gun laws.
Another example is Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish girl pushing forward the environmentalist movement on climate change. Her speaking manner (to political leaders) and solid actions on the climate crisis has gained international recognition. At just the age of 15, Greta was already fully aware of global warming and started her climate strike. She skipped school on Fridays to stand outside the Swedish parliament and hold up a sign that read “School strike for the climate,” trying to push office leaders to help save the environment. It wasn’t very long before she started to catch attention from other students around her and eventually students from other countries. Soon enough, students all over the world were holding protests of their own, helping each other create the “Fridays for Future” movement. After being recognized, Greta confronted the 2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference, resulting in strikes to take place every week, somewhere in the world. Since the start of 2019, at least two multi-city protests occurred, containing over 1 million students each. Greta has become one of the youngest political activists, earning Time magazine cover’s “next generation leader” and winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019. But once again, old men just can’t stand to see someone other than themselves have a reasonable grasp on politics. So let’s look at my favorite person to call out, for example, because he deserves no right to be running anywhere near political office, Donald Trump. He tweeted: “Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill!”
Once he realizes that a teenager (OMG!) might have some sense in her head, and most definitely has more than he does, it sounds to me like he’s the one who needs help with anger management. How’s that for “chilling”?
And obviously not every teen is going to receive that type of acceptance, but there are some political programs that we can follow to contribute to the world of politics.
The National Democratic Institution (NDI), for example, provides many guidance/ resource opportunities for teens. They support young people to channel their energy, creativity and aspirations to become political leaders and activists. There’s even an option that allows for us to set up organizations to change our community and help reshape it in a more efficient way. Another program, The National Student Leadership Conference (NSLC) is a summer program for students enrolled in 9th-12th grade to serve as a “senator” or run for “president” on political action and public policy.
According to their website:
“You will learn how you can have an impact on our nation’s future. You and the other students in your program will stage a mock Presidential campaign. At the same time you will immerse yourself in the inner workings of the U.S. Congress. Leading political advisors, politicians and experts on the intricacies of government will be your guides as you gain a real-world understanding of the U.S. political system.”
Growing up in an age where young people make up over half the population and all we know is social media, the true understanding of politics can be hard to grasp. Where do I stand? Where do I want to stand? How do I even take stance? Political contributors, like these, to the youth help provide a stable and knowledgeable future for us.
We may not be old enough to vote, we may be “too immature,” but we know what we want OUR future to look like, and these programs/teen activists are just the start of our political involvement. It’s time for us to make a stand for ourselves, and that time is now.
Learn more about teen activists and Greta Thunberg:
These 10 young activists are trying to move the needle on climate change, gun control, and other global issues:
Trump scolds Thunberg on Twitter after TIME names her Person of the Year:
Learn more about getting involved in political programs for teens:
Change My Community:
Political Action & Public Policy:
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