Political brainwashing should not impair the stances of teenagers

Emma Carpenter

Whenever political issues are debated in class, I almost always know what the response of my peers will be. As Marin is a predominantly liberal county, many members of our community tend to have identical views regarding controversial topics. It seems that parents pass down their views directly to their children, creating a community that is uneducated about both sides of the political spectrum.

Growing up in a family with two opinionated and conservative parents, I have always brought up controversial topics to find out their unique standpoints on issues. Although at times I disagree with my parents, I try to understand where they are coming from because of the rarity of their perspective in Marin. Being exposed to both liberal views at school and conservative views at home, I was inspired to form my own stance early on in life and become informed by staying up-to-date with what is happening in the world around me. If more teenagers take the time to identify their voice in politics and resist being swayed by their parents, our community would be better informed and more politically diverse.

The political perspectives of parents play a large role in the open-mindedness of their children. According to Dr. Bruce E. Cain, a professor of political science at Stanford University, parents shape the decisions of their impressionable children.

“Parents have a tremendous influence on the interest their kids have in politics, the values they bring to politics and the habits they have with regard to citizenship,” Dr. Cain said.

Illustration by Emma Carpenter

If parents are only knowledgeable about either liberal or conservative views, their kids will follow in their footsteps and continue to believe that there is only one correct viewpoint. To solve this issue, parents must ensure that they are unbiased, and support their kids in whatever party they choose to affiliate with. 

Along with parents, it is imperative that teenagers stay up-to-date with politics on their own to fully understand what they are standing for. According to a December Bark survey, 33 percent of students self-reported that they do not feel informed about what is happening in the world politically. Many teenagers at Redwood are now able to vote, which comes with the responsibility of being politically mindful. They should research evidence to back up their beliefs, rather than relying on what their parents and friends say.

In addition to parental influence, peer pressure can influence one’s political stance. According to Dr. BJ Casey from the medical college of Cornell University, when teenagers take the time to make judgments on their own without any influences, their decisions are more accurate and personal to them. However, when they make decisions in binding social situations, their choices often depict those of their peers.

This is prevalent in politics here at Redwood. According to a recent self-reported Bark survey, 67 percent of students feel that other students at school or their parents have shaped their stance on politics. Being accustomed to hearing both liberal and conservative perspectives, I have been able to take the time to form my own opinions, rather than automatically jumping to a liberal or conservative stance based on what the people around me feel is right. If more teenagers kept an open mind and listened to voices other than their friends and family, perhaps their political views would be different.

Many parents, given the responsibility of preparing their children for their futures, work to indoctrinate their children at very young ages with a specific viewpoint they feel is right. This may seem wrong, but when parents instruct their kids on what to believe early on in life, it can actually have a suprising effect. Based on a recent study from the British Journal of Political Science, parents who insist that their children adopt their political views actually make their children abandon those beliefs and find their own unique perspectives once becoming adults. Children often feel restricted to the one political viewpoint their parents preach to them, but tend to become more passionate about learning both sides of politics later on in life.  

In addition, children who come from homes where politics are frequently discussed are more likely to take an interest in politics once they leave home. As long as all viewpoints are considered, it can be valuable for political discussions to take place in households. Although children are likely to distance themselves from what their parents have taught them to believe once they become adults, exposing children to multiple points of view early on is valuable. Relying on children to go against the ideas that their parents have instilled in them is not a healthy way for them to find their own voice.

It is hard to prevent parents, friends and even teachers from spreading their biased views onto younger generations. There is no one solution that can help prevent other factors from interfering with the visions of young people. To help improve the political imbalance of Marin and beyond, we must begin to end the cycle of one-sided views. Keeping an open mind and constantly questioning what is happening in our world can lead us to find new opinions on topics not guided by the people in our lives.