The ignorant teenager strikes again

Verenice Palczynski

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Illustration by Madelaine Guthrie

Illustration by Madelaine Guthrie

With Trump in office and international affairs heating up, staying on top of both domestic and international news is essential to become an increasingly informed individual. But the sad reality is that many teenagers often live in their own head; what isn’t going to infringe upon their day-to-day lives doesn’t matter to many of them. Yet that doesn’t stop them from taking an ill-informed, stubborn stance on the headlines they see on the newspapers they don’t even pick up. Though this doesn’t represent all teenagers, it seems to be a larger population of us than we should be comfortable with.

With nearly 500 students of the senior class being sent all over the world for college, we can no longer piggy-back on the politics of our parents. All educated opinions hold value and should be heard out. Some people, however, don’t make the effort to form an educated opinion, yet still choose to talk over those who have done their due diligence. The criteria for an educated opinion are as follows:

  1. Read multiple articles on the subject, not just the headlines.
  2. If the topic is complex, try to understand the politics, situation or history surrounding the topic.
  3. Refrain from yelling at those whose opinions don’t exactly match your own. Instead, listen and learn in order to help form a decision of your own.

Let’s use the recent decision of the U.S., France and the U.K. to bomb the Syrian government as an example. For context, Syria has been having a civil war since March of 2011 where Syrian rebels have been fighting against the Syrian government and President Bashar al-Assad for their freedom. Under the Obama administration in 2012, Obama warned the Syrian government that use of chemical weapons (a chemical red line) would provoke intervention. The Syrian government allegedly used chemical weapons against their own people in Douma on Feb. 1, 2018 and the U.S., France and U.K. intervened and launched precision strikes on three Syrian chemical weapon facilities in protest of the Syrian government bombing their own people.

Around the halls, I heard people talking about how terribly sad and unfair this was and how Trump made the wrong call regarding Syria. On the other hand,  I also heard people chant “U.S.A., U.S.A.” and boast about how other countries better know whose government they are messing with. But how many of these students actually understand the situation and have done the proper research to take a valid, strong stance on the issue? Turns out not many—at least here at Redwood.

According to the recent Bark survey, 50 percent of students took a strong stance on whether or not they support the U.S., France and U.K. bombing on the Syrian government (21 percent said they support it, 29 percent said they did not). However, 45 percent said they know very little about the events happening in Syria and 37 percent said they only know that the US (alongside France and the U.K.) bombed Syria. That makes 82 percent of students that simply don’t know enough about the situation to truly form an opinion. Yet, we can infer from the data that about 32 percent of people chose to still take a strong stance even though they didn’t follow the criteria to form an educated opinion.

If we don’t break out of this naive habit now, it runs the risk of taking hold and being able to influence how we make important political decisions in our future, including how we vote. For example, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Trump, the leader of the free world, was put in office by people who followed his Twitter, not the New York Times. Same goes for 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. She had the potential to make history as our first woman president, but her values and beliefs were outshone by the “Hillary For Prison” bumper stickers based off of no more than her email server and the overpowering presence of the Trump wall. Our uninformed choice sways with the winds of clickbait headlines if this lazy habit persists. However, the one thing lazier than failing to get informed on the happenings of the world is to decide that registering to vote isn’t worth the time.

According to Child Trends, in 2012 only 49.4 percent of 18 to 24 year olds were registered to vote. Of those, only 38 percent actually voted in the 2012 election.

The word “democracy” becomes meaningless if people don’t appreciate the privilege it gives them to vote.

No one is saying to write a 10,000-word research paper before you form an opinion. Just spend the 15-30 minutes it takes to become informed on an issue like the Syrian Civil War and the recent bombing. Opinions drive our country forward and open up difficult conversations. However, without being informed, opinions fuel useless fights, prove the ignorance of our people and are better left unheard for they do nothing but detract and destruct.