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A case for caring about politics

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During the 2016 election, Gary Johnson acted as an outlet for voter discontent and comedic relief. His lack of knowledge around international politics peaked when he asked, “What is Aleppo?” While entertaining, Johnson’s ignorance was concerning. It was humiliating for a presidential candidate to not know the epicenter of the Syrian refugee crisis. However, Johnson is not alone is his political ignorance. Generally, Americans lack political knowledge and Canfield’s student body is no exception.

Canfield students are most knowledgeable about national politics. Out of 40 students surveyed, all of them could name the President, 90% could name the Vice President, 52.5% could name the Speaker of the House, and 7.5% could name the Senate Majority Leader.

Canfield students know the least about state politics. One person of the 40 surveyed could name two candidates running in Ohio’s 2018 gubernatorial race, and no one could answer how many seats are in Ohio’s General Assembly.

Canfield students know slightly more about local politics. 15% could name a school board member, and 12.5% could name Canfield’s mayor.

I sat down with Jacob Schriner-Briggs to discuss the importance of politics at all levels, how students can become more knowledgeable, and how people can properly use technology to share their opinion. Jacob Schriner-Briggs is a Liberty High School graduate. He competed on Liberty’s speech and debate team in public forum debate. He ended his debate career ranked 8th in the nation. In college, he competed in Moot Court and Ethics Bowl. Additionally, he participated in his college’s student government. He is currently in his fifth year as a debate coach for Canfield High School and recently graduated summa cum laude from Youngstown State University, where he majored in Philosophy and Political Science. He is a co-host on the Rust Belt to Beltway podcast.

“For some reason, in this country especially, we have a fixation on national politics,” Jacob Schriner-Briggs explained. He said that cable news focuses on national politics and portrays it in an entertaining way. Schriner-Briggs explained, “There is no entertainment value in getting to know things about your local government.” This lack of entertainment at the local level contributes to the political apathy.

However, he still believes that people should care more about local politics. Schriner-Briggs explained, “Because it’s so close to you, you’re still going to feel the effects of decisions that are made at the local level.”

Schriner-Briggs also believes that our perception of state politics needs to shift. He suggested, “I think in our politics, especially in Ohio, we need to start thinking more about labor and the impacts of globalization and these economic issues that really haven’t been the subject of serious conversation for a while.”  

Schriner-Briggs offered several options on how to learn and care about politics. To learn more, he suggested that students use social media apps, such as Twitter. He explained, “If you have an account that just follows 20 or 30 new sources and journalists then, at you fingertips, you have the news.”

Schriner-Briggs believes that student knowledge will lead to an interest in politics. He said, “It just starts with that initial choice, and you’ll always find something that resonates with you.” He pointed to the economy as an example. “Everyone has a stake in the way the economy is structured,” Schriner-Briggs emphasized.

After knowledge and interest develop, political action becomes inevitable. Schriner-Briggs commented, “I think you have to know things and care about those things and then that will kind of culminate in an actual engagement.”

Schriner-Briggs also had recommendations for anyone that wants to share their opinions. He believes that podcasts are “a really accessible medium to get your thoughts out into the world and engage people.” However, some problems may arise. Schriner-Briggs stated, “It took me a long time to find my voice.” He concluded, “Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.”

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A case for caring about politics