On lists that people make regarding things that you should never talk about at a dinner party, politics is often at the top. Most of the time, when I try to discuss politics with my students I encounter sighs, apathy, or an emphatic, “I hate politics!” However, it is my opinion that we cannot afford to ignore this topic. Now, you may be thinking that since the election is over you can finally stop worrying about and hearing about politics. On the contrary, I believe that now is the time we should be concentrating on politics more than ever. Politics must be something that we talk about every year rather than once every 4 or 5 years, starting from even before we are old enough to vote.
In my experience, most students dislike questions that begin with the words “What do you think about….”.They prefer questions that have one simple and correct answer. However, in society, the problems are complicated and there are sometimes multiple right answers or maybe even no right answers. We must be brave enough to ask these difficult questions and discuss these complicated answers. Human lives depend on it.
For example, Donald Trump, a business man and reality TV star with no political experience, was elected as president of the United States. Trump has recently threatened to bring “fire and fury” on North Korea that has never been seen before. No matter your position on North Korea, the people are not the government. They are 24 million people who have worries, fears and challenges just like South Koreans and Americans do. They are 24 million people who don’t have the luxury of a democracy. They are 24 million people whose lives depend on us caring about and participating more in our democracies.
So, how can we effect change? This part is easy. As an electorate, if enough people realize that the system is not working, they can make their voices heard through protesting and voting. The hard parts are getting everyone educated enough to be politically literate, and excited (or angry) enough about politics to make their voices heard. South Korea just successfully accomplished this with the impeachment of Park Geun Hye. Therefore, the answer is two-fold; attitude, and education. I will address both of these, and explain how they are the keys to becoming a better electorate.
First, I will discuss attitude. Most voters get very angry at politicians when they do things that the voter disagrees with. I believe that this is a waste of time, because the focus and attention of the voter is misplaced. The politician is representing voters. If they are in office, it is because many people thought they would do a good job. Therefore, the problem is not with the politician, but the electorate itself. Get angry at them. If the electorate remains apathetic or uneducated, there is no reason to believe that the people elected will be competent. If a politician gets elected to represent a community, and they represent them based on the ideas that they ran their campaign on, and the way they have held positions in the past, then they are only doing their job. Any short-comings that they may have are a direct reflection on the voters. In the case of Donald Trump, I cannot blame him for making bad decisions, because he has no experience and is simply representing those who voted for him. I must blame the people who voted for him, even if it is uncomfortable to talk to them. This is why it is important to talk about politics with other people rather than having an apathetic attitude. Making people aware of issues, and discussing them deeply, is a vital part of effecting change and developing an informed electorate.
If we are unwilling to engage in such discourse, then the only hope for an informed electorate is an education system that values politics, and prepares students to make informed decisions once they are old enough to vote. In the case of Donald Trump, there is an American education system that failed 63 million people and allowed them to believe that voting for Trump was a good choice. However, again, rather than being mad at him I will use my energy to engage in dialogue about how we can do better in the future.
Thanks to the internet, we have more information at our fingertips than any generation before us, but sifting through it for accurate information that has come from several respected sources or has been peer-reviewed is not always easy. Accordingly, schools should have courses dedicated to navigating information on the internet. Also, it does not help that the education system tends to focus mostly on major subjects such as math and science while largely ignoring fringe subjects such as politics and philosophy. I believe that a more liberal arts approach to education is needed. Being able to apply things such as the scientific method, critical thinking, or logic into practical uses such as choosing a candidate to vote for is not something that is taught in most curriculums. It should be. Voting for someone with no political experience is similar to a scientist publishing data without doing any experiments, but we do not generally think about voting in scientific terms. In fact, teachers are often just as hesitant to discuss politics as dinner guests are. Schools should encourage students to engage in political discourse and teachers should facilitate these sensitive conversations in a supportive and open environment.
We live in a time where being a reality television star is sufficient experience to be President of the United States. What politicians look and sound like has seemingly become more important than where they stand on issues. However, these issues have real consequences. As a global society, we cannot afford to disregard politics. We must accept the responsibility that comes with being part of a representative democracy. This means being active in politics, encouraging others to be active, and making sure we take steps to learn more about the issues every day.
by Nick Hayes, English Adviser
The Chungdae Post -
<저작권자 © 충대신문, 무단 전재 및 재배포 금지>