South determines the importance of political awareness

Anne Ribordy and Noah Walch

Junior Ashley Roy adjusts her Trump hat and opens up TikTok, preparing to record another video. Unlike most TikTok users who download the app for idle entertainment, Roy utilizes the platform to promote her political views. Her account, @thatconservativegirl, has amassed more than 50,000 followers.

Many students at South have found their own ways of increasing their political awareness. Some volunteer for campaigns or work as election judges. Others, like Roy, utilize social media to stay up to date on the news and interact with other political accounts.

“I started using a social media account on Tik Tok to share my political views,” Roy said. “I started off by making a joke one which got a lot of attention, so I just decided to post more. I make somewhat comical videos that express how I feel about government and our country.”

Roy said that even though social media is great for expressing personal beliefs, people should still go to news outlets for factual information, as social media can produce fake news and foster anonymous criticism. She expressed that the hate she receives does not dissuade her from sharing her fundamental beliefs.

“I definitely stay relatively true to the things I believe [even though] I get a lot of hate on social media because of what I believe, and I get probably more support than hate but the hate is not fun to deal with,” Roy said. “A lot of the videos that I post don’t please everybody and some people don’t like them but I still post them because it’s just how I feel.”

Junior Faith Roche also found that social media is often an effective conduit for political discussion. However, she said that in certain cases, social media debates can become uncivil and emotional.

“Unfortunately, while I value moderate and respectful political debate, when I witness a very alt-right Twitter account that is spewing falsities or terribly degrading and disrespectful things, then I call them out on it, and sometimes it gets heated,” Roche said.

Roche said that recently politics has become too polarized and that people debate less about policy and more about their entrenched personal opinions. She added that this intense political climate often drives people away from engaging in politics.

“I think a lot of debates around politics these days really don’t go anywhere because it’s heated and all emotional and you’re not really talking about policy at all,” Roche said. “I think people think it’s such a divisive, polarized thing but it doesn’t have to be, but I think it has kind of been turned into that especially recently.”

Roche also noted that South students and teenagers in the area largely lack political engagement because they fail to see how hot-button issues impact them. The proverbial “Glenview bubble,” she said, closes many residents off from the national political scene.

“I think [high school students] think that a lot of it doesn’t affect them, because on the North Shore, most of us are white middle-class so we’re not involved in a lot of political issues, and we don’t really see how it affects us, even though it does, and I think that we’re kind of caught up in school and social stuff and we’re kind of in a bubble closed off from the political sphere.”

Senior Philip Tajanko concurred with Roche in that South’s student body is not adequately politically engaged. To pursue his passion of politics, Tajanko said he watches the presidential primary debates, donates and text-banks for the Bernie Sanders campaign, and has attended a Bernie Sanders rally. Tajanko said that those who are not informed do not realize the  necessity of voting, but he hopes that his peers realize the importance of at political involvement is not necessarily attending rallies and protests, but rather just keeping up to date with current political news.

“A lot of the people I’ve talked with either are not going to vote or don’t know enough about the candidates to vote, so I think it’s really imperative that we as the incoming voters learn not the super intricacies of politics, but a general understanding of politics so that we can make a well-informed decision,” Tajanko said.

Junior Ale Galarza felt that education bears some responsibility in creating civically active citizens. She noted that not enough instruction has integrated the necessity of being politically informed and independent.

“I think teachers don’t do enough to talk about the importance of politics,” Galarza said. “I don’t think they really tell their side or anything, but I think they should incorporate politics [into the classroom] more because I think it’s important for every student to know what they’re getting into, how to choose their votes.”

Junior Elaina Maris said she will probably not vote in the Illinois primary because she does not have an opinion on the candidates. She has not taken a civics class at South yet, and if it was not a requirement, she said she would never take one.

“I haven’t signed up yet [to vote] because I missed the day that they came to school and I’m not that educated in politics,” Maris said. “I feel like in our grade, half of us are too young to vote anyways, so I just haven’t put that much interest into it.”

Tara Tate, civics and AP Government teacher, said that there is a problem with the youth voting group having lowest voter turnout and believes it is because younger people find politics to be inaccessible. She said that her class acts as a foothold to get students into the realm of politics by removing the obstacles that cause students to not be involved.

“We bring in the League of Women voters to register [students] if they want to register to vote, [and] we walk through how do you find out where to go vote,” Tate said. “We walk through things that I think are barriers that keep people from participating in the system.”

Freshman Sara Khan said that her involvement in extracurriculars and electives at South like Debate and Speech Team contribute to her political awareness. Khan says that taking part in these programs sets her apart from her freshman class and keeps her informed about current events.

“I feel [that] in my freshman class no one really knows about what’s going on with foreign relations and what’s happening domestically, [things] that people really need to know about when we are older,” Khan said.

Senior Aasiyah Bhaiji also noted that her involvement in South’s debate program had increased her own political awareness. Her experience in policy debate, she said, encouraged her to research candidates’ beliefs and policies from an impartial perspective.

“I thought it was really interesting to [learn] not only see both sides of the political spectrum but also to be firm in my beliefs and do my research and really understand why politicians make the choices that they do,” Bhaiji said. “And for me choosing a political candidate to support during the primary elections was really important and I did… a lot of research.”

Bhaiji will volunteer as an election judge for the Illinois primary, helping to register voters and assisting them in casting their ballot. She said her decision to work on Election Day stemmed from her involvement in debate, as well as other factors.

Bhaiji also said that her identity plays a role in her political awareness, especially at South. She noted that, as a minority, she brings to the political conversation a perspective that is uniquely influenced by who she is.

“Not only as a student of color, but as one of the very few Muslims at this school, there are definitely certain political decisions and policies that are way more on my radar than other students at Glenbrook South,” Bhaiji said. “Especially during my freshman year I found myself having to explain a lot to other students about specifically the travel ban and Trump’s policies toward Muslims, and it was very interesting to me to be that outsider.”

Galarza’s political views were also influenced by her upbringing. She said that her parents’ unique experiences as immigrants from Mexico have had profound effects on their, and her, principles.

“I am a child of immigrants, so when my parents decided to vote in the US when they finally got citizenship, they just kind of sorted their views out,” Galarza said. “They’ve always leaned more to the left [and] their experiences in life changed them to be that way so I’ve always been taught to embrace everybody and to not discriminate if it’s none of your business, and that’s just a big point of my beliefs.”