I was caught off guard in a graduate-level class I am taking. The nature of the intersection of bureaucracy, politics, and the public at-large was the discussion at hand and the professor posed a question: “Have any of you ever contacted your elected politician (for any issue)?” Sadly, only 5% of us (in a class of 40) raised our hands and the professor commented that young people rarely do that, only the elderly, and everyone laughed.
It is very rare for any young person (i.e. 18-24) to contact their local legislator on anything, even if it is important to them. Rising tuition costs, low employment opportunities after young adults graduate, and substantial student debt still are not great enough factors to motivate young adults to communicate with their elected officials, let alone vote. However, I cannot blame them (too much) for not doing anything with a political system that seems to not take them seriously. It is really difficult to figure out what steps to take in order to get the results you want.
I was lucky to have gone to UCLA which has a great student activist student population. As part of the University of California Student Association (UCSA | http://ucsa.org/), I learned from my fellow student leaders in how to draft letters to politicians, learned about fax-ins and call-ins, registered other students to vote, and lobbied those legislators who are supposed to represent us. Being involved with some of the campaigns of the United States Student Student Association (USSA | http://www.usstudents.org/), I had the opportunity of doing what I did with UCSA on the national level.
I do not consider myself to be a student activist, but I hope that other students realize that they do have power and politicians do listen to us, though it may not be all of the time. Politicians need to realize that students are the future of this nation, and that you will only get out of it what you invest in education, from preschool to higher education. I hope that in future years, more students will raise their hand to that professor’s question, but for now, I am depending on the other student leaders who have inspired me to be so civic-minded.
- USSA’s Student Power Turn (studentactivism.net)
- The Student Loan Debt Bubble Is Creating Millions Of Modern Day Serfs (sgtreport.com)
- Thanks to Student Activism, Los Angeles Schools Have Banned Styrofoam (good.is)
- Poll: Obama v. Romney on Education Policy (insidehighered.com)
- USSA’s 65th National Student Congress (studentactivism.net)
- College Students Discuss Higher Education Affordability with Secretary Duncan (ed.gov)
- Student debt: Average payback takes 14 years (business.financialpost.com)