Oct 29, 201208:49 AMDaily News
Breaking news, practical tips, useless trivia, media reviews and more
It’s never too early to get schooled on politics
No matter what your career ends up being, there will be some connection to politics, which makes paying attention to the upcoming presidential election critical.
That’s the message Christopher Borick, political scientist and director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion sent recently to high school students during a panel discussion at Harrisburg Academy.
The panel discussion, “Election 2012 and You, the Student,” also included Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin & Marshall College, Roberta Winters, of the Pennsylvania League of Women Voters and Harrisburg Academy students, senior Noel Potter and freshman Wesley Sheker.
The discussion was moderated by John Micek, government and politics reporter for The Morning Call.
A civic duty
The event was designed to show teens the duties and privileges that come with living in the United States, and to explain how to be an informed voter in the midst of conflicting media messages and seemingly endless government gridlock. “The ability to vote is one of the fundamental rights we hold so dearly in our nation,” said Jim Newman, head of the Academy.
“Like many adults, students are also feeling confused about who to support in this pivotal election. Even teenagers who are not old enough to vote must learn how to understand the election process and voter responsibilities,” explained Amy Miller, history teacher at Harrisburg Academy.
According to a poll taken during the event, about 74 percent of the students, teachers, parents and others in attendance who voted support President Obama.
But panelists pointed out that the results of any given poll represent only the political beliefs of a random sample of the population and can produce results that are extreme.
In the case of young adults, studies show many young people follow their parents when it comes to choosing a candidate. “I grew up in a household where car rides have been filled with NPR, rather than music,” Potter said. “Both my parents share my general political principles.”
But Potter said he has done his own homework to form his opinions by reading the White House website, Romney’s website and by watching the campaign debates and speeches, in addition to checking anything he isn’t sure about on factcheck.org.
Minding the details
Panelists also gave students an important lesson in life: “It’s not just command of the subject matter, it’s how you relate,” Borick said. “Especially in a town hall forum, you can’t be angry. You can’t do a Joe Biden and interrupt.”
Potter said he agrees that how a message is delivered is just as important as the message. “Social media condenses the candidates’ messages. One Facebook post [is enough] to touch an emotional nerve.”
Panelists agreed whatever media is used to receive a message, it’s critical for students to find one that speaks to them so that they can become informed. “Whatever your careers are … policy matters,” Borick said. “No matter what you are interested in, your career is an entry into politics. The challenges are many and the connections to you are many.”
For a student's take on the panel, check out this reaction from Harrisburg Academy senior Nathaniel Schmidt.
Andrea Ciccocioppo is editor of Central Penn Parent magazine and got her education in politics by covering many local municipal elections during her former career as a news reporter.