While most students are apprehensive to discuss politics
and policy at first, further investigation reveals an
active political pulse at the heart of America's youth,
especially on the issues that hit close to home.
Bloomsburg High School social studies teacher Donald
Traugh asked students to name and rank the most significant
political issues facing America. The war on terror topped
the list, followed by healthcare, the environment, the
economy, and illegal immigration.
However, students were quick to point out oil prices
as a top concern.
"Gas prices are a problem," says Brittany
Herritt. "I have to pay for my car; therefore,
they have to go down." In fact, "I'm concerned
about the economy in general," adds Herritt.
Keashla Marengo and Casey Hess express concerns for
the planet itself.
"I think that global warming is a major issue,"
"We're ruining the environment," Hess agreed.
"We need to start taking care of our earth."
Surprisingly, none of Traugh's students report anxiety
over the possible re-institution of the draft.
Participating in elections
In the U.S., eighteen states allow 17-year-olds to vote
in primaries or caucuses if they will be 18 by the general
election, and additional bills propose lowering the voting
age to 16. While America's youth are more mobilized than
ever, the 18-24 year old age group is consistently the
least likely to turn out on election day; only 47 percent
voted in the 2004 election.
But 18-year-old Olivia May plans to vote in the Pennsylvania
primary on April 22.
"I registered Republican because my whole family
is, but I don't know who I'm voting for. I haven't listened
to many speeches," said May.
Brittany Reibsome, 18, also plans to vote, but for different
reasons. "I registered as a Democrat because my
parents are Republicans, and I wanted to go against
and vote against Hillary Clinton."
Gilliland, Herritt, and Reibsome all support Democratic
contender Barack Obama, stating that they admire his
liberalism. The proportion of liberals to conservatives
may be greater in Bloomsburg because it is a university
Then there are the less traditional political beliefs,
like those of 15-year-old Paul Gilliland, who calls
himself a communist.
While he admits that he's not a serious communist, Gilliland
maintains strong political views. "I'm a liberal.
I think it would be great to have a system of [economic]
Being open minded
While students differ politically, one consensus is clear.
The youth of America will not be swayed by the race or
gender of presidential candidates.
According to senior Samantha Campenni, "There
are some people who are racist or sexist. But it won't
affect youth as much because we've been raised not to
Herritt agrees. "Since the belief system is changing,
young people are more accepting."