The discussion of politics is one of the most popular and controversial topics today. Many people have begun to take strong sides as to where they stand on hotly debated issues such as politics. Politics are often discussed in City and Country, in Community Meetings or between students. However, because politics and specifically political parties are not formally taught in school, many students are either not aware or have inaccurate information regarding the differences and ideologies of the Democratic and Republican parties.
We interviewed fifteen different students from the XIs through XIIIs about their reasons for affiliating with a particular party in order to confirm this. As expected, none of them were able to tell us the difference between the parties or what made a Democrat a Democrat and a Republican a Republican.
The Democratic Party’s philosophy of liberalism advocates social and economic equality. It provides government intervention and regulation in the economy. The Republican party supports capitalism, low taxes, and conservative social policies such as greater individual and economic freedom.
Out of the 15 people we interviewed, only one person knew what ideas the Democratic Party supported.
Lucy McAllister-Nevins, XIsJ, said “Republicans are more business oriented… Democrats care more about equality and have views that support all people.”
Other students we interviewed answered that they “didn not know.”
It was shocking that the students who associated themselves with a specific political party did not understand what differentiates the parties.
We were puzzled that someone would so strongly support a party, yet not know much about it.
All the students we interviewed said the most significant reason they support their party is because of their parents.This lead us to the conclusion that because parents state their political opinions with such pride, their children listen to them without a full sense of all political ideologies, making it difficult to structure their own beliefs. Some students, predominantly from the XIIIs, felt that they had more freedom to create their own ideas.
Jack Sheehan, XIIIs, said, “Even though my parents are a main influence, I agree with some Democratic ideas and some Republican ideas, which is why I consider myself an Independent-Democrat.”
The problem with Jack’s answer is that his definition of a Democrat was “[they] respect all people,” an unclear and vague definition of what a Democrat supports.
Despite the fact that the definition Jack Sheehan provided for us was indefinite, it is surprising he has personal views at all considering the results from the various other interviews. Other students said that all of their politically related beliefs were inspired by what their friends and, predominantly, parents think. Sam Marshall, XIsD, Aleksandra Schulussman, XIsD, Gitana Savage, XIIIs, Charlie Shapiro, XIIsS, an anonymous XIII, and Sam Kassel, XIsJ, were examples of friend/parent inspired beliefs.
The general idea we got from all of these interviews was that parents and friends play a huge role in what political party students say they affiliate themselves with. Everyone we interviewed said that their parents’ party was either a strong reason or even the sole reason that they chose their political parties.
However, despite the fact that students say they associate themselves with the Democratic party or Republican party, are they really a part of either?
Being a part of a party means that a person shares similar beliefs to what the party supports. For instance, being a Democrat means you support a larger and more influential government but being a Republican means you support capitalism and less government regulation. Party affiliations should have nothing to do with current presidents or politicians (a reason mentioned by many of the people we interviewe d). Being a part of a party is about supporting the same or at least similar core beliefs. Just because you may not like a candidate, that would not affect what you believe in.
The solution to this problem is having more well-informed students who are actively learning about these issues. Though there is some responsibility on the student to pay attention to the news and current events, the adults in their life should also help to educate them. Parents and teachers should have discussions about events and even briefly discuss politics in the United States.
It’s clear that there are a lot of misconceptions about the different parties, what issues they support, and what makes them different from each other. Even though at a student’s age the parties do not matter in practice, they do affect a student’s outlook on political issues, whether they are talking with their friends, watching the news or in a Community Meeting. Students need to be better educated, not only by themselves, but also by the adults in their life, in the issues and beliefs that the United States’ political parties support.