A Passive Generation

Brooke Stock
Rider University

As United States citizens we are given the right to vote. This opportunity allows our country to be a democracy and gives people a voice in the government. As a young adult, one would think that our generation would choose to voice their opinions for the future, since it will affect our lives immensely. Unfortunately, many individuals among my generation do not see this as a priority. Young adults, from the ages eighteen to twenty-four have the lowest voting participation rates out of everyone who is eligible to vote. This is due to the Presidential Election in 2016 between Donald J. Trump and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Young adults share their voice and opinions on politics, but when it comes to the polls, they do not vote. Many young adults also believe that they do not have to go and vote because they believe that their voices will not be heard. In this article, I discuss the reasons behind this lack of commitment to the polls. What is the reason that young adults right out of high school do not vote? Is it the lack of teaching politics in social studies classrooms? Or, is the focus of social studies classrooms too dedicated to teaching the same past events? Furthermore, could this turn out be evidence that social studies needs to be renovated? Maybe there needs to be a class that is dedicated to current events and individual responsibility as a citizen that all students must take. I can recall when I was a student in high school, my teachers never fully expressed the importance of voting because we were not old enough to vote at that point in our lives. The presidential election of 2016 should be a warning for adolescents and young adults that our votes, in fact, do matter. All votes matter, but when it comes to the future of the United States, the younger Americans need to vote so our concerns can be handled properly.

            I remember, too, when I was in high school four years ago and all my social studies teachers never emphasized the importance of voting. Teachers always briefly stated the importance of the rights that we have, one being the right to vote. Before the 2016 election, there was not a recent election where the younger generation believed that they had to vote. Since the outcome of the election, this was a wakeup call to many people. Many people just believed that the person that they wanted to win, would. When the outcome was the presidential candidate that they did not want, they were the first people to complain all over social media. How can someone complain if they did not actively practice their right to vote? From my past experiences in the field at Ewing High School, my cooperating teacher expressed to the students how important it is to vote. We collaborated on a lesson about Andrew Jackson and tracing his presidency from his actions as a common man to his actions as having “king-like qualities”. Our students were curious on our views on the past election and what we believed. Together, we were honest with them. We expressed how significant it is to do your research, hear everyone’s side, and develop your own beliefs. We discussed the voter turnout and why their vote will matter someday. It is important for students to be taught that when they are of age to go out and make their voices heard.

            After researching why, it is that the younger generation does not vote, I found out that the average age that voted in the 2016 election was fifty-seven (Strauss, 2018). These means that all the reforms and laws that the younger generation wants to be passed, will not. All new laws, reforms, acts, will be towards what the older generation needs. Carolyn DeWitt and Maureen Costello state that, “If there is one thing we believe in America, we believe in government of the people, by the people, for the people.” and later explain that American citizens, “…haven’t learned how to register to vote. They haven’t learned the best way to influence their elected representatives. They haven’t learned that they have power.” (Strauss, 2018). How can we be a democracy that countries want to mimic if we cannot get our own to get up and vote? Have Americans stopped caring or are we too lazy to vote?  Joel Stein explains the millennial turnout and states that he, “calls millennials the “narcissistic generation,” and Jean Twenge says they are the “me generation,” stuck to their phones and uninterested in politics.” (Dalton, 2016). I do believe that millennials and people who are younger are addicted to their phones. Social media overtakes people’s lives, day to day. Instead of going out to make sure their vote counts, they will voice their opinions on Twitter or Facebook hoping that by posting their opinion it will help the vote. I agree, it is essential to voice your opinions, but if you are not going to act, then why are you choosing to not vote?

            I always ask my peers why they do not bother to go vote because I understood the importance of this aspect my whole life. The answer I frequently receive is, “Because my vote won’t make a difference”. This answer, I personally feel is a selfish statement. Every vote matters no matter who you are or what you believe. If everyone who did not believe in their vote, voted, then the voter turnout would be completely different. Health care is so prominent because it is what most older people want for themselves. If the younger generation would go out and vote we could help our education systems and our futures. Caroline Beaton expresses that, “In 2016, we view engaging in politics as a personal choice, not a civic obligation.” (Beaton, 2016). This is accurate because many younger people see voting as an option and not an obligation. They believe it is not their civic duty to express what they want. If people were educated more on voting and constantly informed on the importance of it, I believe that they would go out and exercise their right to vote.

            I have hope for my generation in the 2020 election. The past election was, without a doubt, a wakeup call. This article is not intended to bash the younger generation, however, to express my aspiration for them to be more active participants in the future of our country. We are the future and I believe that we will come together as one fighting for what we believe.

References

Beaton, C. (2016) The science behind why millennials don’t vote. Retrieved from  https://www.forbes.com/sites/carolinebeaton/2016/11/04/whymillennialsarentvoting/#34fb382e89c2

Dalton R. (2016). Why don’t millennials vote? Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/03/22/why-dont-millennials-vote/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.9e68bea2c2ec

Strauss, V. (2018, September 20). Many young people don’t vote because they never learned how. Here’s a free class now in schools trying to change that. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2018/09/20/many-young-people-dont-vote-because-they-never-learned-how-heres-free-class-now-schools-trying-change-that/?utm_term=.b355d8c66fc0

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