The Oracle

To what extent are students at Gunn politically aware?

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By Elsa Chu and Utkash Dubey:

As high school students reach an age with new political privileges, the future of society arguably revolves around their opinions, perspectives and perceptions of politics. The Oracle set out to ascertain the level of campus-wide political awareness. After administering and gathering the data from 10 knowledge-based questions, staffers analyzed the collected information. Survey data came from 91 students spanning all four grades and both genders. However, it should be noted that the results are not a completely accurate representation of the entire school due to the small sample size.

While the average student scored about a 3.7 out of the 10 relevant questions asked, there was a considerably wide range of scores. The least politically aware were freshmen males, freshmen females and sophomore females, respectively. After that, the middle scorers were senior females, sophomore males and junior males, respectively. The highest scoring, most aware students were junior males, junior females and senior males, respectively. The average score stratified by grade ranged from approximately 3.2 to 4.5 out of a possible 10. Senior Michaela Gold shared her opinion on the score for the teenage demographic. “I think that [the low score] shows we should talk more about current events, because you can’t expect high school students to know where to find good resources and information,” she said.

Others agreed with Gold. “I’m not surprised [at the score] because I don’t think there’s a large reason for students to be more politically aware because they can’t vote and there are things that are immediately more important to them,” senior Jeremy Neff said.

Advanced Placement (AP) Statistics teacher Daisy Renazco believes that the low scores in the younger grades are linked to their age. “The freshmen are getting lower scores, which might be because as you’re here longer, you’re learning more,” she said. “At the age of 14, you may have less incentive to be politically aware because you’re not near the voting age. Developmentally, teenagers are more interested in [themselves], but the brain starts the develop as they get older and they start to care more about the world around them.” There doesn’t appear to be a correlation between genders, since freshman males scored lower on average than freshman females, but senior males scored much higher on average than senior females. Renazco gave her perception on why the girl scores were, for seniors and sophomores at least, lower than those of the boys. “Generalizations made based on gender would come across as sexist,” she said. “From my expe- riences, though, men feel like they need to know facts, while women are more emotionally tied. For politics in general, politicians market themselves differently to the female voters. Critics have mentioned that JFK appealed to women because he was handsome, which sounds shallow but those comments have been made.”

Since the majority of students did not identify them- selves with a party, there were no relevant distinctions to be made between those few who were represented as Democrats, those who were Republicans or others. Approximately 21 percent of the surveyed students identified themselves as Democrats, 3 percent declared themselves as Republicans, 4 percent were Libertarians, 3 percent were Independents, 1 percent were Centrists and the remaining 68 percent declared no political affiliation whatsoever.

Political awareness is a choice rather than a gift, and it increases with age as the outside world becomes more relevant in one’s life. This school’s teachers are very qualified and are not, in any way, responsible for the scores the students recieved. While the average student received a poor score by many standards, it is not a reflection of their intelligence or that of the school’s collectively, but simply an evaluation of how much they pay attention to the political world.

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To what extent are students at Gunn politically aware?