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Is This South Africa’s Tiananmen Square Moment?

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.

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.”

Calling Young South African Writers, Journalists And Leaders: Tell Your Story And Make A Difference

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.

Here’s How You Can Help Haiti After The Impacts Of Hurricane Matthew

With Hurricane Matthew now threatening the United States, the people of Haiti are left to try to recover.

Luckily, there are many different ways in which you can get involved in the relief efforts directly.

The following charities are raising money that will go directly to helping Haiti recover:

Handicap International

The Salvation Army

Unicef

Catholic Relief Services

Save The Children 

International Medical Corps

Operation Blessing International 

We will update this list. Feel free to email us at editor@risenews.net if you know of other charities that are raising money for Haiti that are not already on our list. 

HuffPost Deleted That Shameful “Ladies Of The SEC” Piece, But We Saved It So You Can Read It

The internet was aflame last night with many people upset over a piece in the Huffington Post from contributor Rebecca Walden.

Walden penned a piece titled, “Young ladies of the SEC, cover it up!” and boy was it just awful.

Now, it turns out that the Huffington Post wants this all to go away and so they deleted it.

Not a good look HuffPost and not very journalistically sound either.

But have no fear, below you can read the piece as it look on the HuffPost website before it was deleted:

screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-12-29-20-am screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-12-29-28-am screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-12-29-56-amHere is a plain text version: (HT/ SaturdayDownSouth)

Dear young ladies of the SEC, can you do us all a solid and start covering it up?

Standing amongst many of you at the recent Alabama-USC game in AT&T Stadium, I was bewildered.

An Alabama student myself not 20 years ago, I remember what fun it was to dress up for football games. My friends and I would scour the racks of Banana Republic and other favorite stores for anything and everything crimson. We’d swap favorite pieces, share accessories and pull together our “best look” week after week, not only for those cute fraternity boys, but also to cheer on the mighty Tide.

What we didn’t want, and what we never did, was to show up for a college football game looking like we belonged in a Victoria’s Secret fashion show.

More than once at that last ballgame, I wished I could have wrapped my elephant scarf around one of you, teetering around on stilettos with your bra straps exposed and operating under the misguided notion that you looked irresistible.

I wondered if your mother knew what you were wearing.

I wanted to tell you that if you’re doing this for a boy, he’s not the one for you.

I wished you understood that a trend can be interpreted as fun and flirty without being tasteless.

Most of all, I hoped you would soon wake up to embrace the ethos shared by higher learning institutions everywhere – class.

That lucky shaker tucked into the back of your on trend boot?

The team logo you’re sporting on your cheek?

The Greek letters sticker on your shirt declaring the sorority to which you belong and your loyalty to your team?

All rendered classless by those ill covered curves you’ve made sure are on full display.

In talking with friends from all over the Southeast after college football’s opening weekend, it was immediately clear that this trend was hardly limited to the students I saw that Saturday.

Not that that made me feel any better.

Families attend these games. Little eyes are watching you.

On behalf of them, and the rest of us who feel embarrassed for you as you walk by, stop baring almost all in the name of game day fashion.

To be clear, I admire individuality and personal style. Team spirit is a precious tradition, and the vastly wide interpretation of any given school’s football culture is part of what makes Saturdays down south so darn fun (not to mention the stuff of people watching legend).

So by all means, be creative. Don your most debonair collegiate colors ensemble. Heck, try to sneak in a flask or two (this is college, after all).

Be young and fun and carefree.

But please, leave the club clothes at home.

Do you have an opinion about this piece and want it published in RISE NEWS? Send it to us at editor@risenews.net.

Here is a comment sent in to us by Katherine Y. Carothers, a student at Auburn University:

“You know it’s funny because on my college campus (which by the way I’m here all the time — not just on the game days you come to visit), the man jogging down the street with his shirt off is never seen as tasteless, the frat boys dressed in their embarrassing and frankly tacky pledge gear are considered funny and “builds character,” so besides this post being extremely right winged and strongly sexist — I see where your coming from, but not from the same perspective.

People dress how they feel about themselves and also as they were raised. So instead of addressing “these girls” attire as classless and repulsive, let’s remind ourselves of where it all started.

Shame on the ADULT who never told them they didn’t have to advertise their body to get attention, shame on the ADULT for never teaching their children, both girls and boys, that their clothing is not just what they wear but how they carry themselves, shame on the ADULT who never taught their son or daughter how to look sexy, confident, and cool without exposing every inch of their body.

So instead of body shaming and berating my peers, these young women, someone else’s daughter….hug your “little ones” a little tighter and remind them of their worth…because someone obviously forgot to tell the young woman you’re condemning.”

Not everyone disagrees with the Huffington Post piece. 

Here is a comment sent in to us by Luisa Kay Reyes, a student at the University of Alabama.

“My Mother and I were walking around the quad during the tailgating at the last home game versus Western Kentucky and we were pretty shocked.

We’ve been going to the quad for years, so we’re used to the summer dresses worn by the sorority girls. But, now, it seems like the trend is these really, really, really, low cleavages with very short shorts and wedge heels.

We saw so many girls holding the wedge heels in their hands and going barefoot about half-time, as it is really too much for them to handle. And the low cleavages prompted my Mother to say that they looked like a Mexican man, with their shirts unbuttoned down to the navel.

Admittedly, all of the girls we saw were incredibly thin and looked like they could all be walking down the runways of New York or Milan.

But, it came across as “advertising” rather than enjoying the camaraderie of Alabama football.”

Do you have an opinion about this piece and want it published in RISE NEWS? Send it to us at editor@risenews.net.

WATCH-What Real “Ladies Of The SEC” Have To Say About That Slut Shaming Piece: 

Why Are There So Few Minority Characters In YA Books?

Representation in all walks of life has been in the spotlight recently. And one area that is full of controversy is what young people are exposed to in books that often help inform them during some of the most important years of their lives.

A study by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center of the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that out of the 3,400 books that they received for 2015, 106 were by Black authors and 269 were about Black characters, and 58 were by Latino authors and 82 were about Latino characters.

Malinda Lo, a YA novelist, has been following the uptick in LGBT+ YA.

According to Lo, “In 2014, mainstream publishers published 47 LGBT YA books. This is a 59% increase from 2013, when only 29 LGBT YA books were published by mainstream publishers.”

Yes, these statistics look optimistic, but they are still not what they should be.

So what is the damage done when proper representation can’t be ascertained?

All groups suffer because such lack of representation fails to encapsulate the differences between different people; essentially, one person is not the whole.

“I think the tendency has been to reduce Latino characters as this one thing or Asian characters as this one thing, Muslim characters as one thing, and the fact is that we’re people,” Meg Medina, a Cuban-American writer of YA books and an Advisory Chair for the group We Need Diverse Books, said in a interview with RISE NEWS. “And all of those very specific identifiers and experiences shape how we move. It’s what makes us people.”

Meg Medina, a well known Cuban-American YA author. Photo Credit: Meg Medina/ Facebook.

Meg Medina, a well known Cuban-American YA author. Photo Credit: Meg Medina/ Facebook.

Read More: #IfMenHadPeriods Is Well Intentioned But Also Very Flawed

The effects of poor representation of minority groups are not limited to people of color.

Alex Gino uses the singular they pronoun and wrote George, a YA book about a trans girl that won the 2016 Stonewall Book Award.

“It’s important to remember that each trans experience is unique and different the way that each cis experience, the way that each trans experience, the way that each gay or queer experience is unique,” Gino said in an interview with RISE NEWS. “And so I wouldn’t even say that one trans story can cover it, or one gay story would cover it. There’s nothing quite like finding someone like yourself in a book.”

Leaps and bounds have been made in representation, however, despite this work, there are still advances to be made.

For example, Lo estimated that 1.9% to 2.4% of YA books published in 2013 had LGBT+ characters or dealt with LGBT+ issues.

YA author Alex Gino at a book signing in 2015. Photo Credit: Alex Gino/Facebook

YA author Alex Gino at a book signing in 2015. Photo Credit: Alex Gino/Facebook

“There is a lot of work to be done. I think that we only started to drill down into the many experiences that make up being a young person,” Medina said. “I think there are lots of questions in publishing now, like who’s writing these stories? Are they authentic, are they not authentic, are they written from sort of an outsider point of view, people imagining what it’s like to be x y or z, are they generally writers of color? I think when we have many people at the table with many points of view, the books that get published are richer, are more nuanced, are truer stories of real peoples’ lives.”

Gino seemed to agree with that sentiment.

“I think that we are scratching the surface of the stories that are available to be told, and the stories that are available to read,” Gino said. “I think that we need more books by diverse people and we also need more diverse groups of people publishing the books, so that stories that are being picked have more things to offer.”

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.

Cover Photo Credit: Amber McKinney/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

North Miami Police Have “No Specific Policies” For Dealing With People With Disabilities, FOIA Request Finds

A public records request from RISE NEWS has found that the North Miami police department does not any “specific policies” in terms of how its officers interact with people with disabilities, including autism.

We first requested the information on July 25th and were emailed the findings today.

The request was prompted by the police shooting of unarmed therapist Charles Kinsey three times in the leg in a North Miami street.

The officer who shot Kinsey, Jonathan Aledda was apparently aiming at Kinsey’s autistic patient according to the Miami-Dade police union president.

The shooting made national headlines and brought the issue of racial bias and violence against disabled people into the fore.

In responding to our request of any and all policies and procedures that the North Miami police department may have in dealing with people with disabilities, Major Franzia Brea said that “There are no specific policies regarding this topic.”

You can see for yourself:

 

 

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While this new disclosure underscores the fact that North Miami has no specific policies dealing with people with disabilities, that doesn’t mean that their officers aren’t familiar with the issue.

North Miami police spokeswoman Natalie Buissereth told RISE NEWS that roughly 85% to 95% of North Miami officers have received Crisis Intervention Team Policing training (CIT).

CIT is often cited by police departments as a top local training method for officers to learn how to deal with people with mental illnesses.

Of course mental illness and developmental disability are two different things.

The CIT training only includes a small section (one page) about Autism and other developmental disabilities.

jonathan-aledda

North Miami Police Officer Jonathan Aledda.

While the CIT training may be lacking, at least it is something.

READ MORE: Unclear Whether Cop Who Shot Charles Kinsey, And Almost Shot Autistic Man Was Properly Trained

But it is not at all clear that Aledda even received CIT training.

His personnel jacket does not include information regarding the training.

“If you don’t see it, it’s not there,” Buissereth said of Aledda’s missing CIT training certificate in his personnel jacket.

While much of the focus of the shooting has rightly been focused on Charles Kinsey, perhaps we should start asking why our police officers aren’t being properly trained on how to deescalate situations with people who have disabilities.

READ MORE: Autistic Lives Matter Too

Do you have a news tip about excessive police force involving people with disabilities? Send us a news tip to editor@risenews.net. 

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.

Pope Francis Makes Stand For Tolerance Of Islam After Brutal Killing Of French Priest

Pope Francis has said it is “not right and not true” to identify Islam with violence following the brutal murder of a Catholic priest by extremists in France, which was claimed by the Islamic State militant group (ISIS). The 79-year-old Argentine pontiff, was speaking on his return flight from Kraków, Poland, where he had led a… Read More

BREAKING: Three Children Kidnapped At North Miami Bank

UPDATED: 1:02 PM EST

The three young children who were kidnapped this morning from a Wells Fargo bank in North Miami after an armed robbery were found safely.

According to NBC Miami, a victim was forced to drive to the bank where he withdrew money.

After doing that, the victim’s car was stolen which contained his three young children.

The bank in question is located at 12700 Biscayne Boulevard in North Miami.

From NBC Miami:

“North Miami police are searching for a 1997 Toyota Camry either gray or champagne in color with the tag #: EJDM59. A 5-month-old, 2-year-old, and a 3-year-old are inside the vehicle, authorities say.

Police are looking for Terrence Hill for his possible involvement in abduction of the children.”

This is a developing story. Stay with RISE NEWS. 

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.

You Can Donate To Support The Victims Of The Orlando Mass Shooting

The mass shooting in Orlando has taken at least 50 lives and over 50 more people are still fighting to survive in area hospitals.

You can make a difference.

Equality Florida, an LGBT civil rights organization has opened up a GoFundMe page to raise money to support the victims of the attack.

From the group:

“We are reeling from the tragic news that a gunman opened fire on the 2am capacity crowd at Pulse leaving 50 people dead and over 50 injured according to Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer.

We are heartbroken and angry that senseless violence has once again destroyed lives in our state and in our country.

Gay clubs hold a significant place in LGBTQ history. They were often the only safe gathering place and this horrific act strikes directly at our sense of safety. June commemorates our community standing up to anti-LGBTQ violence at the Stonewall Inn, the nightclub that has become the first LGBTQ site recognized as a national monument.

We have received a steady stream of emails and messages from those seeking to help or to make sense of the senseless. We make no assumptions on motive. We will await the details in tears of sadness and anger. We stand in solidarity and keep our thoughts on all whose lives have been lost or altered forever in this tragedy.”

As of 12:00 PM EST, over $21,000 has been raised out of a goal of $100,000.

Click here to donate.

 

Cover Photo Credit: Tim Evanson/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

The University of Tennessee Just Had One Hell Of A Controversial Year

By Courtney Anderson

Students at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, have had a whirlwind of a academic year.

In between talks of Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam’s outsourcing plans and the sexual assault lawsuit that was filed against the university, the school has also been dealing with Tennessee legislators and their feelings about the diversity programs.

It is a conflict that lasted throughout the entire 2015-2016 academic year and finally came to a head this May.

The conflict began on August 26, 2015 when the Office of Diversity and Inclusion posted an article written by the director of the Pride Center, Donna Braquet, on its website.

In the article, Braquet talked about gender identity and gender-neutral pronouns students, faculty and staff could incorporate into their everyday language. And while the post was innocent enough, many conservatives did not find it helpful.

On August 28, 2015, Fox News commentator Todd Starnes posted a piece about the article on his opinion blog. Starnes discouraged the use of gender-neutral pronouns and made fun of the University for having the post on one of its websites.

“Anything goes for the sake of inclusivity, right?” Starnes wrote.

The post then got the attention of Tennessee lawmakers who, like Starnes, felt that the post was unnecessary and posed a threat to “traditional” values.

Like this? You can write for us too

The Vice Chancellor of Diversity and Inclusion, Rickey Hall, was heavily criticized, as was Braquet and the Pride Center.

Soon after, the post was removed from the website while Hall was on vacation.

Fast forward to December 2015.

The Office of Diversity and Inclusion posted a notice on its website reminding faculty and staff to keep holiday parties non-religious.

Specifically, they were asked to make sure “your holiday parties aren’t just Christmas parties in disguise.”

They were discouraged from incorporating religious symbols and encouraged to bear in mind that Christmas is not the only holiday to occur in the month of December.

Tennessee lawmakers did not like this advice at all.

Many of them, such as Rep. Jimmy Duncan and Rep. Martin Daniel, called them an attack on Christmas and Christianity. Duncan was one of the lawmakers to demand that Hall be fired and Cheek resign.

“Chancellor Cheek called me today and he was very apologetic over this matter. He told me that he is planning to take action within the next week,” Duncan wrote in a Facebook post. “I think the one who should be fired is the one responsible for this, Rickey Hall, the Vice Chancellor brought in here from Minnesota to run this office.”

Students at UT Knoxville fought back.

They rallied in support of Hall and demanded that Tennessee lawmakers recognize that diversity is a major aspect of successful colleges and universities.

Thus, the hashtag #UTDiversityMatters was born.

On December 8, 2015: a disastrous press conference was held.

Students held a sit-in in Cheek’s office to show their support for Hall.

Cheek and Hall were to meet students in Cheek’s office at 3:30 p.m. to address them and the press. Instead, they gave an exclusive interview to only a couple local Knoxville news stations on the third floor of Andy Holt Tower, the building where both of their offices are located. Students discovered this and rushed to meet their administrators.

Afterwards, Cheek and Hall walked to the Communications building, room 321, to finally address the rest of the press and the students who had been waiting. I

n the meantime, it was revealed by the Knoxville News Sentinel that Hall had been “counseled” and that he would no longer have control of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion website. Control of the site was given to the Vice Chancellor for Communications, Margie Nichols.

Winter break came and news died down.

On January 20, 2016, a few weeks after the start of the spring semester, a bill that would strip the Office of Diversity and Inclusion of state funding was introduced. Students immediately began taking action.

The UT Diversity Matters Coalition was officially formed and began having meetings with administration, including Cheek and Hall, about the future of the diversity programs at the school. Meanwhile, in early February, Nichols announced that she was retiring.

Things took a sour turn for diversity at UT Knoxville on March 2, when the senate voted to strip state funding.

Three days later, nearly 150 students wore black and staged a walkout of a basketball game. Throughout the month of March, the coalition continued to meet with administration.

And in April, the Tennessee House also voted to strip state funding.

On April 19, the coalition and nearly 500 students staged a mass class exit in protest of the funding cuts. During the protest, students staged a die-in on the Pedestrian Walkway, one of the busiest pathways on campus.

The following day, the coalition had their final meeting with administration. And while some of the demands were met or otherwise discussed, many of the demands were met with “No’s” from the administration.

A month later, on May 19, the University of Washington announced that Hall accepted a position as its new vice president of the Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity and chief diversity officer. Hall will start his position on August 1, 2016.

The following day, on May 20, Governor Bill Haslam allowed the bill to become law without his signature. The Pride Center was immediately shut down, Braquet was fired and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion was disbanded.

Screen Shot 2016-06-04 at 12.13.29 AM

Photo Credit: Courtney Anderson

Thomas Tran, UT student and a member of the coalition, was one of the students to speak at the rally. Since the end of the semester, he has consistently spoken out against Tennessee lawmakers’ actions and administrations’ lack of action.

“We have been doing everything ‘the right way,’” Tran said in an interview with RISE NEWS. “We’ve voted. We’ve called legislators. We’ve had meetings with admin. We’ve built broad base support with the student body. And this is how admin pays us back.”

The Pride Center, which administration announced will be converted into “student organization” is being run by students known as “Pride Ambassadors.” Without administrative support or funding, they are on their own.

“We have been told that we have to fend for ourselves,” a post on the Pride Center Facebook page reads. “We, who have been targeted, and harassed, and scapegoated for an entire year, have been cast aside. We have been offered up as sacrifice.”

Students have not given up.

Members of the UT Diversity Matters Coalition have promised to continue fighting for diversity at UT Knoxville. Johnathan DeWitt Clayton, a UT student and member of the coalition, said it best in a Facebook status.

“This isn’t any one issue, but rather an issue of systematic oppression and erasure, one that the university as a whole is refusing to acknowledge, let alone combat,” Clayton wrote. “But we’re here. We’re not leaving. And we won’t let you silence us anymore.”

Cover Photo Credit: Courtney Anderson

A Lower Voting Age Wouldn’t Be The Solution To Youth Apathy

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.”

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Photo Credit: Thereasa Thompson /Flickr (CC By 2.0)

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:

  1. Science
  2. Math
  3. English
  4. History
  5. Gym
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Photo Credit: Dlyl86 /Flickr (CC By 2.0)

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.

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Photo Credit: Denali National Park and Preserver /Flickr (CC By 2.0)

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.

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