Today’s high school students are destined to be the leaders of tomorrow, so what should they know as teenagers about politics? There are many important things high school teens should know as they begin to develop a political identities and approach voting age. High schools should help provide such information to allow teens to develop political knowledge and opinions independently, separate from the intense gaze of friends and family.
The first thing students need to learn regarding politics is the lingo. What is a “Republican” and what is a “Democrat,” as well as what is a “liberal” point of view and what is a “conservative” point of view. Putting formal vocabulary to students’ existing opinions can help them further explore their political leanings and seek out ways to become politically involved. Knowledge of vocabulary will also help students pay attention to the news without feeling lost.
Secondly, students need to be informed of major issues and key points important to America’s two largest political parties, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. Many students may not know how each party traditionally votes on real-world issues like tax reform, immigration, federal spending, and the social safety net. By learning about key issues today, students can think about how those issues affect them and how they will, upon turning 18, vote on such issues.
Third, students must learn the importance of the political process. While many teens may quickly develop a firm grasp of the divide between Democrats and Republicans, even politically ideological teens may balk at actually having to go vote. All high school government and politics courses should discuss the importance of voting and being an informed citizen. Students should learn historical examples of how voting changed the world and how lack of voting caused substantial harm. Even today voter apathy can sway elections and lead to less-than-optimal leaders taking power.
Fourth, it is important for teens to know which politicians decide which issues. A mayor, obviously, has different powers and duties than a U.S. senator, who has different powers and duties from a state governor. Many teens may not wish to vote upon turning 18 simply because they do not know what the different political positions are about. High school students must learn the basics about local, state, and federal government and legislatures. They need to learn which powers are granted the various individuals who win office during elections.
Every young person deserves a chance to develop a unique political identity and seek out opportunities to aid their respective political allies. By knowing the news-savvy vocabulary, the basics of America’s two largest political parties, the importance of the political process and the various electable positions, teenagers can become informed citizens necessary for perpetuating our nation’s democratic values.