It doesn’t take a long-experienced political science professor to know that matters of current events and policy can be polarizing. Since there are many sides to each of the issues, it can be difficult for most people to get engaged. For many, this can also lead to politics being shunned upon as a topic of discussion.
In interviewing Ms.Peters and Mr. Hagen, this article seeks to explore why politics, despite it being a taboo topic for many, is something that many people follow and get engaged in.
Long before teaching Humanities 12 and AP Government at Oceana, Ms. Peters had quite the political upbringing. She grew up in a conservative logging town dominated by environmental issues, saw political offices write legislation, handled Congresswoman Speier’s constituent interactions, and got deep into women’s issues. Each of these things contributed to Ms. Peter’s interest in politics.
In an interview, Ms. Peters stated that, even for political enthusiasts such as her, it can get “easy to feel worn down.” At times, being interested in state and national politics is just not enough to get through the divisive rhetoric, misleading reporting, etc.
In spite of what can turn people off from politics, Ms. Peters noted that young people have more information at their disposal, more means to spread their voices, and are even the smartest and most engaged generation. “There aren’t people in politics like them,” she said. To put it another way, young people have been going that extra mile, in spite of how much politics can turn people off, to close the gaps they see between their wants and a real societal change.
Additionally, Ms. Peters spoke of the need for action and engagement. With polarizing news being a “big concern,” there is a need for getting engaged in the decisions that “affect our lives.” Ms. Peters believes that the digital age, especially for young people, has created and warranted engagement as well as action.
Mr. Hagen teaches Humanities 11 and APUSH at Oceana. Just like Ms. Peters, he has had quite the political path and upbringing before teaching. For Mr. Hagen, someone who has studied political science for 5 years in college and has looked at American and South African politics and international relations, the area is certainly right in his wheelhouse.
Going beyond the classroom, 2000 and 2001 were two years that drew Mr. Hagen into politics. The highly contested 2001 election and the 9/11 hijackings proved to him that it all could be “such a circus” and also “much less trivial” than he previously thought. On top of the U.S. events that have gained Mr. Hagen’s interest, his birth country has done its fair share to contribute to his interest in politics.
South Africa ended its apartheid when Mr. Hagen started his 1st grade year. With the country’s still recent history of Jim Crow-style policies, Mr. Hagen made sure to bring up that “100% it affects my views and way of teaching.” In other words, Mr. Hagen, inspired by the recent oppression of his home country, wants to prevent history from repeating its patterns of oppression through teaching.
On top of teaching, Mr. Hagen also has a background in community organizing in San Francisco. He spoke of it as quite the political experience, as he could “see how people feel”, see how “human beings are not rational”, work in meeting people where they stood on the issues, and could go about just “talking to people.” Through organizing, Mr. Hagen’s experience with policy could go beyond learning about different political theories and get real experience with the people side of it all.
Having experienced politics in many ways for such a long time, Mr. Hagen mentioned a quote that has stuck with him. “If you don’t have a seat at the table, you’ll be on the menu” Whether it be organizing, meeting with local officials, or some other way of contributing to what decisions are made, Mr. Hagen knows that having one’s voice heard can go a long way away from being crushed by the system making said decisions.
Politics is quite something. When people get drawn into it, they can get their start in many different ways. Even though people look at the issues in many different ways, it’s easy to get caught up in the chaotic side. Its strong polarization can be a turn-off for people. In spite of that, in the age of social media and with young people experiencing a strong sense of civic engagement, politics is a topic that has a massive following (for wide-varying reasons).