Getting (Peacefully) Political at School
High schoolers and post-secondary students often find themselves increasingly interested in politics. It is a complex and controversial subject, but also one of profound importance. Politics can shape how one sees the world, how they interact with it, and what they do with their lives. Students greatly benefit from increased political involvement at their school. They learn more about themselves and about others around them. Perhaps most importantly, they learn how to disagree.
An ideal place to start is one’s own political views. People need to know what they believe in and stand for before they discuss and debate those ideas with others. Build a rounded and well-informed political perspective by reading and watching news from various sources, as well as researching political history and ideas. The variety in these sources is critical in order to minimize one’s own bias and to gain insight and understanding into other people’s opinions. Read into opposing viewpoints, which paves the way for a better understanding of what the other side is saying, and why. In doing so, political debates are less likely to devolve into personal attacks and arguments.
With that foundation, pursue political foundation at school. Sign up for extracurricular groups and activities related to political parties and major issues. Join a debate club or school newspaper. If these opportunities are not present, look into starting up a group or blog. Politics can be brought into classroom discussion and assignments, as well as informal conversations with classmates and friends. It is important to remember not to make these exchanges personal and to listen to what others have to say. First-person statements (“I think that…”) are far likelier to generate healthy discussion as opposed to combative statements (“you are wrong”). Everyone benefits when engaging in politics peacefully.
As this political involvement picks up, carry on those activities outside of the walls of the school. Volunteer for advocacy groups fighting for marginalized people or specific issues. Sign up to volunteer for political parties or politicians in the community who champion important causes. Reaching out to local Members of Parliament can help get one’s voice heard and increase involvement in the community. This can include activity on social media, attendance at townhalls, and encouraging friends to vote and be involved in their own way. Even if there are disagreements, this involvement can generate healthy discussion and makes it more likely that those disagreements will lead to productive action instead of pointless bickering.
Politics is complex. It can bring about great change and a sense of meaning and purpose in one’s life, just as much as it can destroy friendships and get people trapped in circular arguments and petty squabbles. In a world facing a pandemic, climate crisis, divisive political parties, and other major issues, you cannot afford to be apathetic and apolitical. By understanding your own views, engaging others, and partaking in the community, you can become politically active in a peaceful and productive manner. You will gain confidence, get an idea of what you want to do in the future, and build a better world.
The Scholarship System. “5 Ways Students Can Get Involved in Politics (and Why They Should).” https://thescholarshipsystem.com/blog-for-students-families/5-ways-students-can-get-involved-in-politics-and-why-they-should/
Schuschu, Monikah. “A Guide to Being Politically Engaged in High School.” CollegeVine. https://blog.collegevine.com/a-guide-to-being-politically-engaged-in-high-school/
TeensHealth. “5 Ways to (Respecfully) Disagree.” https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/tips-disagree.html