When I was in middle school, I had zero interest in government and politics. I can distinctly remember actively avoiding any and all political conversations much to my history teachers’ dismay. In the midst of the polarizing 2008 presidential election, I paid little to no attention to the politicians arguing and criticizing each other on television for the fact that I didn’t understand how these ridiculous, and sometimes even eccentric politicians could possibly lead the United States.
So, the obvious question is how did I end up taking a government and politics class as an elective? Somewhere in my high school career, I realized that politics runs deeper than the pompous men and women showing up on our TV screens. My biggest moment of revelation was last year in a class on the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the USA. Politics isn’t just about making empty promises and one-upping the other guy, but rather it’s a chess match in which one must be cautious and calculated. Realizing that there was so much about politics and the government I knew nothing about, I realized taking Government, Politics, Citizenship would be indefinitely beneficial, and it has been!
So why do we study politics? To be president of the United States? Probably not. Over the course of this semester, we have studied many aspects of government and politics from the inception of a nation to how single citizens can affect a well-oiled machine such as the United States Government. Each unit was crucial for helping us students 3 very important lessons. (Obviously there are many, but these are my three big takeaways)
- What I, the student, hold to be important
Through our unit on interest groups and lobbying, we each found things that are important to us and learned a means of telling the rest of the world. As I researched legislation on gun control and the many shootings of the past few years, I found that I actually have a strong opinion about gun control that I never knew existed. And, since I’ve done a lot of research, I know how I can contribute to the efforts of others who share my stance on the subject.
- What others hold to be important
Cutting programs from the national budget wasn’t easy. Seeing the push and pull of two sides duking it out for equally useful programs made me realize that by studying government, I not only solidify my own opinions, but also get to see the opinions of others. When cutting programs, it made me wonder what right I had or anyone has cutting programs that mean so much to others. Studying the effects of budget cuts made us more aware of the other people who live in this country with us and more sympathetic to the needs and ideas of other who don’t share our same circumstances.
- How we can mold those things into one society
At the beginning of the semester, we were charged with creating an entire government from scratch for an artificial country with a history of turmoil and dictatorships. In this project, we meshed together the ideas and needs with others and our own personal beliefs, although probably inadvertently. However, there is still a point to be made. The existence of a well functioning government and society requires that the needs of the people find a way to be met whether through a king/serf relationship or a democracy like the one we have today.
So, through this class, I’ve realized that the reason we study politics and the government is the same reason we might study English, math, or science – to understand the subject, to appreciate the subject, and to apply the subject. Sure, maybe we will be the president. Who knows? But in order to better our community and dare I say country, we must understand how our country works. By studying politics, we know how our government passes bills, how citizens can instigate change, and how they can stay good, active participants in any political climate. Government is very a reflection of our society. It informs us of how our society works and what issues people really care about, and that is important.