Oh say can you see… or learn to use your own eyes?

in Opinion by
President Barack Obama views student projects during a tour at Mooresville Middle School in North Carolina. (Photo/Pete Souza)

If individuals enjoy being taken advantage of, then political ignorance is for them. However, for those who do not, the benefits of political literacy come from seeing a worthy candidate acknowledging the reality of the nation and making it better. Today, more than ever, it is important to become politically literate.

With sensationalist headlines polluting the media, politicians’ controversial comments are used to sway the politically illiterate. “Politicians use tools such as lies, misdirection and emotional appeals to convince voters of a made-up reality,” Daniel Freitas, a New York University student, wrote on Tremr, a debate platform. “These tools only become powerful in the hands of men when they are used on those who lack the necessary knowledge to discern the validity and merits of such claims.”

Even in the midst of the digital age in which all information is at the common person’s fingertips, these methods of political trickery still prevail against those who do not care to research and learn for themselves. In a way, politics has become akin to a spectator sport. Many watch the campaign process as they sit in their living rooms with political commentators describing the campaign as though it were a horse race.

People have become more concerned with superficial details than actual substantive issues. Take, for instance, Beto O’Rourke, Democratic presidential hopeful. On the news, we hear more about how he’s revitalizing Democratic voters and almost won Texas, a red state, than his actual policy concerns. While the onus is on citizens to educate themselves about politics, the media is still partially to blame for making this political education more difficult than it needs to be.

Oftentimes, if I happen to stumble into a political discussion with my peers, they’ll say something along the lines of “I don’t follow politics.” That was good and well in junior high when your biggest concern is some grammar homework and wondering if Johnny liked your post on Instagram. However, high school students have reached the point where their opinions matter. They will be voting in a a few years or less, and it’s important to know what issues really are and where they stand on them before filling out a ballot.

Instead of retrieving your news from Daily Mail or Buzzfeed on Snapchat, look for more credible news sources, such as Reuters and BBC. This search for political clarity doesn’t have to be a chore. However, people must remain mindful of news bias when researching issues in the post-truth age. Don’t immediately jump for the big names such as “The New York Times” or “NPR” which tend to report news with bias.

Thomas Jefferson wrote that “wherever the people are well informed they can be trusted with their own government,” implying that our democracy rests on the assumption that citizens remain civically literate. That means, my dear reader, it’s time to become politically informed.

Kristen is a senior at American Heritage School in Plantation, Fla. She is the co-Editor-in-Chief of The Patriot Post, President of Student Government and co-founder of the non-profit Friends for Fosters. Kristen loves keeping up with politics, watching Netflix, reading and sleeping in. She considers herself a nerd due to her massive video game and comic collection.

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