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Viewpoint: Students should care about politics

The university, traditionally, is a place of thinking. Revolutions begin there. Sit-ins are organized, science and technology are advanced, and questions are asked. University students have accomplished so much around the world and are given the educational advantage to continue doing so.

And that’s why it’s so maddening to hear a college student say, “I don’t care about politics.”

We live in a country where, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, a very fortunate 68.3 percent of 2011 high school graduates are enrolled in colleges or universities. These opportunities are precious and should not be taken for granted.

The opportunity to attend an institution of higher learning comes with the responsibility to stay informed. It isn’t enough anymore for a student to wait until Election Day, and then ask his or her parents which candidate he or she should vote for.

Trying to stay abreast of everything happening in the country can be frustrating, and it can be even more frustrating to pay attention to the ever-changing opinions of our nation’s various elected leaders, but it is important for university students, many of whom are voting for the first or second time, to be informed of each candidate’s stance.

“Politics,” much like “the media” or other plural-turned-singular nouns, are often maligned, and the word “politics” tends to carry a slightly negative connotation. People conjure up the image of loud men on soapboxes, throwing mud at each other, or of a slick snake-oil salesman making deals in back alleys, or of large rooms filled with rich folks wearing suits and congratulating each other for being popular.

There is also a curious local fixation on the evil of politics. Perhaps linked to the uniquely conservative, religious nature of Utah and its foundations (which include being chased from place to place by a persecutory government), people seem hesitant to trust elected officials or put much effort into thinking about the issues. The general attitude seems to be that the discussion of politics fosters contention, and why foster contention when we can simply elect officials who promise to keep everything the same, year to year, and then we don’t really have to pay too much attention to it?

Of course, to ignore the occasional evils in politics would be foolish, and to suspend skepticism in studying the platforms of candidates would be a swing too far away from general apathy. But to leave the future of our nation, our state and our community up to the chance of “someone else” making voting decisions for us is irresponsible.

Especially for freshmen, but also for other students wanting to become more involved or informed, there are newspapers practically littered across the campus. Online news sources are faster than ever. Sociology and history courses are required for new students, and new students would do well to not just get good grades, but to pay attention to the issues being discussed.

The future of our nation will someday be in the hands of this generation, and it would be unfortunate if that future was dropped simply because no one wanted to talk about it.

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