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How 2020 Has Pushed Politics To The Forefront For CB Students

While in the past it might’ve been easier to stay away from political involvement, it’s become increasingly impossible to divest oneself from these issues because they impact our lives so directly.

2020 has been an intense and packed year in a variety of ways, particularly politically. From the country’s divided opinions regarding how the current presidential administration has responded to the Covid-19 outbreak to protests and civic unrest precipitated by the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor by law enforcement to historically devastating wildfires along the West Coast, it’s become far more apparent that politics cannot afford to be divorced from every other aspect of our lives.

Given all of the historic social and political events that have taken place this year, it’s no wonder that students at CB have become far more active and engaged in the politics that govern the world around us. Even students who previously weren’t invested in politics have begun to care immensely about the pressing issues in our country and around the world.

Both Kirsten Pereira (‘22) and Sofia Antido (‘22) say that the historically devastating wildfires along the West Coast and the Black Lives Matter protests that began in late May have pushed them to become far more politically engaged than ever before.

“2020 has encouraged me to further my knowledge of the topics and issues that I advocate for and has opened my eyes to a lot of the issues in the world right now, and I’m trying to become more involved and do more to help,” Kirsten says.

Social media has played a massive role in the dissemination of political information, especially for young people who use platforms like Instagram and Twitter on a daily basis. Because the pandemic has made it difficult to safely hang out with friends, social media usage, especially among people who were already very active online, has skyrocketed. And one byproduct of this is an increasing political awareness fostered in large part by the so-called “Instagram infographic industrial-complex” of users who attempt to explain otherwise incredibly complex social, political, and economic issues in a succinct and visually appealing way.

“I’m largely informed about current events and politics through social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter, as well as through more mainstream news sources,” Kirsten describes.

However, our ability to raise political awareness on different platforms can be limited by the spread of misinformation. It’s not uncommon to see popularly shared infographics on stories one day, then to see a complete breakdown and refutation of the misinformation present in them the very next. Because we’re often drawn to certain posts based off their aesthetics and framing of certain messages, parsing what information is true and false can sometimes be extremely difficult.

Both Kirsten and Sofia say that they now feel more compelled than ever to look deeply into the sources behind the political info they consume, particularly when widely-spread infographics lack any citations.

“I do try to make sure my sources are correct even though they aren’t always, but if I do spread false information in any way, I delete it, apologize, and correct it,” Sofia explains,

Part of the reason behind young people’s increasing involvement in political activism stems from political and social issues increasingly impacting and interfering with our personal lives. The Coronavirus pandemic and California wildfires have brought issues of continued political austerity and lack of substantial action in terms of climate change to a head. It’s become abundantly clear that attempts to dissociate politics from our personal lives are futile and counterproductive.

While in the past it might’ve been easier to stay away from political involvement, it’s become increasingly impossible to divest oneself from these issues because they impact our lives so directly. It should come as no shock that young people are demanding more action be taken to resolve existential issues like climate change when for nearly a month it’s been impossible for millions of us to safely leave our homes due to poor air quality sparked by unprecedentedly destructive wildfires.

CB social studies teacher Mr. Michael Hood says that in his time as a teacher, he’s witnessed a progressive increase in political polarization both among his students and more generally, especially surrounding contentious and divisive election seasons. The upcoming election in particular has been incredibly polarizing and is practically guaranteed to get far uglier considering the recent untimely death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as well as a major potential for a “blue shift” on election night.

“The biggest thing that I’ve noticed… really since the Bush-Gore election of 2000, is just the intensity in which people tend to go in one direction,” Mr. Hood says. “So if they identify as a liberal or conservative, there’s much more of a level of intensity that I don’t really remember existing in the same way.”

Mr. Hood notes that political divisiveness and high political spirits among students are nothing new, but have certainly become far more pronounced over the time that he’s taught at CB.

“I think that there’s much more of an inclination than I remember for students wanting to become politically active,” he says. “Maybe with the advent of social media and with the ability to access information people are much more informed than they might’ve been prior.”

Regarding what he does as an AP U.S. History teacher to increase his students’ engagement in politics, Mr. Hood says he always tries to demonstrate the links between the issues of the present and those of the past.

“The biggest thing I do in the context of my class is that I make a lot of connections between what happened a long time ago and what’s happening now, because there are so many parallels that continuously occur, and I point those out as often as I possibly can.”

With the ever-increasing intensity in the gravity of our political circumstances, it’s no longer feasible to pretend that there’s a genuine separation between our personal and political lives. It’s become more clear that young people are no longer avoiding the ways in which politics control every aspect of our lives.

(Disclaimer: Some of the language in this article has been changed from a previous version to reflect less inflammatory language.)

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