COLUMN: The educational benefits of political involvement start at a young age

It’s no secret that a majority of Congress is made up of people over the age of 50. In recent years, younger generations have been getting more politically involved and the benefits of this are evident.

Sofi Zeman is a first-year Journalism major at MU. She is an opinion columnist who writes about politics and government.

In a world where any and all news relating to the government can be found at the click of a button or via a status update, political involvement has begun to start at a younger age. Today, political activists as young as 6 years old are known to engage in the important conversations that are weighing on the world today. With a U.S. Congress that is regarded as one of the oldest in history, it’s clear that a growing youth involvement poses an opportunity for a fresher mindset to enter Capitol Hill.

Outside of the political atmosphere, there are countless things that younger generations can teach those senior to them. With the technological and educational advantages that the youth of America have been granted, a younger presence in any environment poses the opportunity to introduce innovative thinking, faster learning and a change in perspective. This is no exception in public affairs. After holding a seat for decades, older members in Congress often lose the drive that they once had for change. In an effort to keep things the way they have always been, outdated opinions frequently get in the way of social progress. It’s likely for this reason that it took as long as it did for same-sex marriage to be legalized. Younger generations still see a need for progress and change because worldly initiatives and newly signed laws will directly impact them in the near future. While they can introduce efficiency and new ways of thinking, youth can also teach older generations an extremely valuable lesson: attitude. More than anything, the youth of America want to teach policymakers how to care about what’s going on in the world and how to act on that.

Age draws attention to serious issues. Environmental activist Greta Thunberg captured the attention of the UN, as well as the world, with her speech that called action to the ongoing climate crisis. The fact that a 16-year-old girl can stand up for the planet while legislators and voters beyond her years fail to do the same directly points fingers at the lawmaking system. Thunberg is not alone in the fight to hold policymakers accountable for their lack of action. Parkland student and survivor, Emma Gonzalez, who spoke in favor of gun control following the Parkland shooting, has also done this, among a myriad of others. A change of perspective is also making its way into Congress through progressive congress members like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest woman to be elected into the House of Representatives at the age of 30.

The world currently has an attitude problem, one where today’s important issues are often overlooked in exchange for political gain. The engagement of younger people within the world of politics is drawing attention to the ongoing fight for change, with the ultimate goal of teaching legislators to care about what really matters. As students at MU, even we are able to get involved in making this cause a reality through exercising our right to speak our minds on the issues that are troubling the world today.

Edited by Bryce Kolk | bkolk@themaneater.com

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