Teens will be teens: but are we too care-less?

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Textbook-Current Events Option 2 - Karen
Angelina Liu.

Scrolling down my Facebook newsfeed on any ordinary day, I can predict that I will be met with countless Vine videos, clever memes, and goofy photos. Aside from rare outbursts of intellectual debate, I seldom see friends engaged in anything but superficial socialization. Not to say that I haven’t enjoyed my fair share of meaningless social media frivolities as well, but it seems my contemporaries are almost always more interested in whatever’s trending on Twitter than in current events.

I‘m sure we’ve all found ourselves watching some video—one that quizzes contestants and compiles all of the bizarre answers into several minutes’ worth of footage. The contestants are usually asked something along the lines of whether they know the five constitutional freedoms or whether they can name all of the continents. When most of them fail, we simply laugh, mocking the responses of the questionees and thinking to ourselves: How in the world could someone not know such basic information?

While the lack of knowledge itself presents a serious issue of ignorance, there is something else that is much more troubling. Not only do we fail to acknowledge that we have a problem staying au courant with relevant news that directly affects us, but we also fail to address the matter at hand and to even take it seriously.

Fast forward to Friday, AP U.S. History: Election Simulation day. Guest politicians visit, the radio show plays over the PA system, and “Hawk It Out” is shown on the Smartboard. Everyone loves the Simbucks that come with this Townsend Harris tradition, but it is questionable whether students even take notice of the actual politics involved. In fact, there seems to be a consensus amongst the student body that the “free food” is the highlight of the annual simulation. If this isn’t indicative of how shallow and unconcerned we are towards important affairs, I don’t know what is.

To make matters more dismal, the Hawk Attack segment in the TV series—the segment that tests people’s knowledge of global issues and the upcoming gubernatorial election—further magnifies our apparent superficiality. As per usual, there are both students and ‘candidates’ who are unfamiliar with the topics brought up and completely unprepared to answer certain questions. Perhaps we were laughing at the people who were unable to list our fundamental freedoms, but we are most likely silent now. After all, how many of us are really able to answer those questions?

It’s true that these questions are more difficult than “what are the seven continents?”, but not by much. They merely inquire about the state of the world in which we live and the political system that directly affects us. Yet we are at a loss of words, unable to answer a question that is quite simple in theory. Why? Has our apathy towards the real world has driven us towards ignorance?

Little do we know, we should empathize and sympathize with the game’s contestants because we are in the shoes of the unknowing contestants. Most of the time we are those silly people who do not know the right answer and for all we know, there may be people who look down upon us for being uneducated. Being on a gameshow and not knowing about our world may seem like an unlikely situation, but the point certainly translates into our life experiences. As teenagers, we are no strangers to being scorned by our elders and rightfully so, for we should be made to recognize our faults.

By neglecting to make ourselves aware of the changing world around us, we are choosing to designate current events and important affairs as ‘secondary’ to our petty interests in pop culture. We are projecting a nonchalant attitude for the world to see, giving ourselves a notorious reputation and proclaiming that we simply do not care enough to be a part of the larger society. We relinquish our right to make changes in our world when we fail to demonstrate an interest in doing so.

I am not proud of the fact that I struggle with answering the Election Simulation questionnaire. I have taken it three times now, and I still am not positive which state positions are elected every year. I don’t expect every teenager to know every detail about the American political system or every little global occurrence that makes the news, but we can make slight changes in the way we live our lives. We can remind ourselves we should not prioritize keeping up with the latest scoop on celebrity gossip, instead choosing to spend that time reading the news. As soon-to-be adult citizens, we have a responsibility to be more cognizant of the world around us. After all, it’s better to be an active participant than a powerless onlooker as today’s events become tomorrow’s history.