Politics in Schools: For Better or For Worse

By Alex Berkman

My morning routine is as follows: (i) wake up, (ii) go downstairs to see CNN playing on the television; (iii) eat breakfast; (iv) go back upstairs to change into my clothes and brush my teeth; (v) return downstairs to see CNN still playing; (vi) and finally, leave the house to go to school. Oh, and when I come home from school, I return to see a very familiar sight, CNN playing on the television.

Personally, I don’t have much of a political opinion -When I am involved in a political argument, I will attempt to come across as informed as possible by parroting short phrases from my parents’ dinner conversations. Regardless, politics is everywhere in our lives, and especially prevalent today given the current state of our government. It is crucial that we, even as students, exercise our role as citizens of a democracy and are actively engaged in American decision making, and therefore American politics. However, political discussion in schools is often frowned upon as many administrators believe that students should be provided with a safe haven from the vicious world of politics. But, is a safe haven what we really need?

Sebastian Vasquez, a sophomore at Byram Hills and a peer of mine, took the initiative this year to start the “Government and Politics Club ” with a friend, junior Palvasha Khan. He and I both feel strongly that young people should have the right to express their political opinions if they choose to do so. When asked about the growing need for students to be politically informed and knowledgeable, Sebastian pointed to how “young people today face the biggest challenges of any generation before us, and yet we are one of the most politically apathetic.” Although students will become the future decision makers of our nation, many choose to remain “apathetic” to the world around them, particularly American political affairs. This, in large part, can be attributed to how politics are rarely, if ever, incorporated into our learning curriculum. In fact, it is very well possible that certain Byram Hills students know more about the political structure of Ancient Rome than they do twenty first century United States. While history, among other school subjects is valued, and deservingly so, one could argue that educating an individual on current events is equally, if not more important than learning about the past. 

Sebastian Vasquez said it best: “If the goal of an educational institution is to prepare students for their future, attempting to keep politics out of the curriculum ignores the reality that politics is our future.” Making schools  politics-free zones is certainly the easier thing to do. It diminishes arguments among students. It eliminates the expression of students’ biases from the learning process. It allows schools to continue with their current systems.

But since when has “easy” ever been what’s right?