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About the AuthorRich Robinson is the CEO and publisher of Rise News. He is also a journalist and a native of Miami. Robinson graduated from the University of Alabama and can be followed on Twitter @RichRobMiami.
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Bryce Swerhun had spent most of his time in Johannesburg safely away from the sounds of explosions near the University Of The Witwatersrand (Wits).
But something drew him to the campus on October 10 as scores of angry students gathered in a large protest for the elimination of college fees across the country.
What Swerhun, a Canadian who is in South Africa doing field work for his PhD program at City University of Hong Kong, saw there was nothing short of government sanctioned violence against young people on a scale rarely seen in liberal democracies.
Student organizers of the so called #FeesMustFall movement warned private security gathered on the steps of the Great Hall at the center of Wits’ campus that some among their number may start hurling stones at them unless they opened the doors to the building.
By the time Swerhun entered through the visitor gate and walked upon the scene, some protestors were indeed throwing stones at the security guards.
Then the police got involved.
“I saw the water cannon truck shoot up and spray the students below,” Swerhun said in an interview with RISE NEWS.
Swerhun said that “several hundred” student protestors were in the area around the Great Hall at the height of the clashes and that police were being very heavy-handed in the way in which they were breaking up the group.
Tear gas canisters leaving trails of smoke as they hit the ground. Rubber bullets thumping through the air. People yelling. People running.
Through the chaos in front of the Great Hall, Swerhun said that he saw one scene that reminded him of the troubling racist past of South Africa.
A white police officer had a group of black protestors cornered while allowing other students to freely pass. When a group of white students walked behind the officer without being stopped, the cornered black students started to argue how unfair it was.
This is what has become of Wits, one of the world’s top universities. Sad no? pic.twitter.com/3ja1OfCV0g
— Sure Kamhunga (@SureKamhunga) October 11, 2016
At a certain point, Swerhun decided that he had seen enough and that he wanted to get back to the safety of his hotel room.
He walked behind the Great Hall, where he spotted a church where some students seemed to be gathered.
He thought that he could escape from the campus by going through the church.
“The priest then slumped over and then the blood was pouring out. They shot him because he defied them.”
What follows sounds like it is straight out of movie.
“There was a significant moment that reminded me of Tiananmen Square,” Swerhun said.
When he reached the church, most of the students in the area where gathered in a parking lot. There he saw a priest in white robes standing in the entrance.
“He [the priest] seemed to be making a statement, that he was there and it was a place of refuge,” Swerhun said.
But then a massive armored police vehicle started racing towards the church.
“It was moving at quite a speed and everyone is running away,” Swerhun said. “When I get behind a parked car, I see the priest put his arm and the vehicle backed up and left.”
Joy swept through the crowd but it was a short-lived feeling.
“Another armored vehicle came and started shooting rubber bullets at random, Swerhun said. “The priest then slumped over and then the blood was pouring out. They shot him because he defied them.”
Swerhun said that the shooting of the priest had a profound impact on the people who witnessed it.
“Some people got really angry and I saw someone say ‘call up the people with the petrol bombs.'”
“This was nothing but a brutal show of state force,” Swerhun said. “Those police in the vehicle were not in any danger.”
The priest was then brought into the church were he was tended to by private paramedics.
Despite being shot in the face with at least one rubber bullet, he was able to walk out of the church to a waiting car.
While the violence has largely been ignored by the world’s media, it shouldn’t be.
The issue is unlikely to go away even though things are starting to calm down on the streets.
Sure Kamhunga, a political commentator who has a large Twitter following said in an interview with RISE NEWS that the government should do more to end the clashes.
“Meet the student body. Listen to their demands. Offer a solution that paves way for mutual understanding,” Kamhunga said in way of advice to President Jacob Zuma’s government. “Students have already proposed a funding model and that is a good start to reach a common understanding and solution.”
RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.Post Views: 59
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It’s no secret that young people in the U.S. are less involved in politics than other age groups.
More accurately, it is clear that young people between the ages 18 to 25 vote at a lower rate than the rest of the population.
There have been so many theories as to why our generation is the most inactive demographic, but instead of jumping to conclusions, rather, let’s refer to statistics around the world.
The U.S., among many other countries has a voting age of 18.
An article in The Guardian made a list of the various countries around the world with a lower voting age.
They found that “The voting age is 16 and above in Ecuador, Brazil and Argentina […] Austria is the only country in the EU where 16 years olds can vote in general elections. Turnout is roughly the same as in other age groups.”
Austria presents an interesting example.
This suggests that lowering the voting age might cause younger individuals to be more or in this case, equally involved in politics as the rest of the country.
So the ultimate question is whether or not 16 year olds understand politics well enough to vote?
The answer is, they could.
Countries with a lower voting age have a greater amount of civic education in schools. In an interview with Bill Maher, Michael Moore argues, “It’s like drivers ed., at 16 they should be learning about how the government really works”.
Civics has never been any high school student’s favorite class, and that is because it serves to satisfy a required curriculum rather than to actually teach students how politics work.
In this same interview with Bill Maher, Bob Graham explains that we need to “reintroduce serious study of what it means to be a citizen in this country”.
He also suggests that our lack of civic education might be why “Donald Trump thinks he is going to be elected to be George III rather than president of the United States”. Graham is a very witty man.
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If the U.S. decided to lower the voting age, there would be some valid initial concerns. Debatewise.org released information that compared the reasons for and against a voting age of 16. One of the reasons against the change is that “18-25 year olds are the least likely to cast a vote at election time. […] Lowering the voting age still further is therefore likely to reduce turnout even more”.
Though this concern is valid, it focuses less on the voting age and more on the true underlying issues with youth voting in general.
Many young people who are eligible to vote claim that they do not want to participate in an election either because they do not like or understand politics, or they feel that the system is corrupt.
The second reason can be chalked up as normal, historical evidence of youth rebellion against “the man”, but the first reason is very concerning.
When asked, some eligible voters between the ages of 18-25 claimed they don’t like politics because it is so divided.
They said that they didn’t like the process of an election in general, or that candidates never seem genuine.
Every one can agree that these complaints come from a long history of politicians and/or candidates tap dancing around controversial questions, catering to a particular political party, or reiterating the same ideologies over and over again.
But everyone feels that way about politics to some degree. So while this is a turnoff for any intelligent voter, it does not get right down to the reasons why young people just don’t vote.
Young people’s complaints that they do not understand politics should be at the forefront of these low voting rate theories.
A polling website called, The Top Tens, did a polling to rate school subjects from best to worst according to anyone who visits the site.
Best, being the subject of the most value and importance, and worst being the least useful.
Their ranking is as follows:
And social studies, (i.e. politics) is not even in the top ten. Schools stress the importance of math and science to students starting at a very young age.
Perhaps, it is why our generation is so concerned about the environment.
The evidence clearly demonstrates that when students are given more opportunity to focus on a subject, (like millennials have been with environmental sciences), they carry that subject’s importance with them throughout their lives.
If social studies are so low on this poll, it is clear that the subject did not ensure the same kind of interest or importance as much as other subjects.
With inadequate curriculum for civic studies, it is no wonder that when asked why young people do not like politics they reply that they do not understand how it works!
It is even worse in college.
By this point in time, individuals have developed an understanding of their interests and aspirations for the most part.
Politics becomes this arduous and tedious practice of American culture that students feel apathetic towards.
Emory College’s newspaper, “Southern Changes” wrote an article about why the youth don’t vote.
They interviewed different students to get their opinions. One student explains, “Being a young person myself, I understand both the importance of being an active citizen of the United States, and the overwhelming, “it doesn’t affect me” syndrome”.
Topics like social security and welfare reform are things that young people have never needed to learn about, nor are they very interested in how these issues are dealt with by the government.
It becomes much easier to focus on their individual lives and studies than to be an active voice in the debate of social security benefits.
However, this way of thinking caters towards the stereotypical belief that millennials have a short attention span and lack of interest for things that do not affect their personal lives. But wait, these things really do.
In a recent New York Times article, Tamar Lewin explains that millennials are more likely to move back in with their parents than any other generation before them due to a decline in marriages and a terrible job market.
The economy has affected new graduates in a very bad way. Jobs are scarce and pay is poor, therefore, all of that student loan debt seems a bit problematic to pay back when one barely can find a minimum wage job.
These are things that come up in elections; these are things young people should be at the forefront of in politics.
Young people have to decide as a whole to actively participate in local and national reform that lessens the amount of acquired debt from school, and opens up more jobs with better wages.
This is not to say that young people turn a blind eye to these kinds of issues, this election has been an especially noisy one from this demographic due to candidate Bernie Sanders.
And yet, even with a candidate such as him, it is difficult to rely on 18 to 25 years old to participate in politics past the presidential election.
Young people initially were active supporters of President Obama, but quickly ceased any political action and barely voted in the most recent midterm elections.
The scary part is that if Sanders is not the Democratic candidate, many young people and their disdain for Hilary Clinton have declared that they will not participate in this election.
So do we blame millennials for being the things they are so often accused of being, or do we look at other countries and their youth voter participation, and decide that this is a systematic issue?
Reflecting back on the initial question of whether or not 16 year olds understand politics well enough to vote, the answer as of now is definitely not because our 18 to 25 year olds even claim to be uninformed and uneducated in politics.
But this does not have to be the case.
Evidence confirms that when you include citizens in civic endeavors at a young age, and you provide them adequate means of education for the subject, they do participate as much as other age groups.
For the U.S. it might not be the time to discuss lowering the voting age if we still do not have a more effective curriculum to educate and motivate young people in politics.
That should be the priority and then perhaps we can follow in other countries footsteps and lower our voting age.
Photo Credit: Denali National Park and Preserver /Flickr (CC By 2.0)
RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.Post Views: 58
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By Staff Report
UPDATE – 1:48 PM EST:
Russia deploys missile cruiser off Syria coast, ordered to destroy any target posing danger, Russia Today reports.
UPDATE – 11:53 AM EST: Turkey tells Reuters that both pilots are still alive
A Russian warplane has been shot down near the Turkey-Syria border.
CNN.com is reporting that Turkey first warned the plane: “Turkey says it issued 10 warnings to the aircraft that violated its airspace Tuesday before responding “within engagement rules” near the Turkey-Syria border.
Currently the Russian military is searching for the pilot. A video posted online by rebels meanwhile appeared to show a Russian pilot immobile on the ground, either badly wounded or dead reports BBC.com.
In a twist, the Turkish government is now saying that both pilots are still alive and that Turkey is working to bring them to their territory.
According to Reuters the aircraft did not identify itself to the pair of Turkish F-16s that intercepted it in Turkish airspace. After multiple warnings were issued the F-16s brought down the aircraft in the “Turkmen Mountain” area. The pilots apparently ejected from the aircraft. One is reported to have been captured by local Turkmen forces in Syria.
A video released earlier in the day apparently showed a dead Russian pilot, in opposition to the statement by the Turkish government.
(Warning for graphic content)
In a separate yet released incident: new video also apparently shows Syrian rebels destroying a downed Russian helicopter today as well. The helicopter was reportedly searching for the missing Russian pilots shot down by Turkish jets. The Syrian rebels were armed with American military technology.
WATCH: Syrian rebels destroy Russian helicopter with American arms
ISTANBUL: Turkish fighter jets shot down Russian warplane near Syrian border today, Russia denied violating airspace pic.twitter.com/RdWsZXpdlK
— Israel News Feed (@IsraelHatzolah) November 24, 2015
Stay with Rise News as we monitor this breaking news story. John Massey contributed to this report.Post Views: 73
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