I’ve felt for quite a while that college campuses are a microcosm of the political atmosphere of the nation. The same arguments, the same disagreements, and the same trends run rampant through collegiate hallways. The passion and energy of people in my generation, when partnered with polarizing political beliefs, can be a tumultuous combination. Every couple of days, I find myself engaged in a debate with a classmate, coworker, or random student who happens to walk up behind me in the lunch line. It sounds stressful, but actually I enjoy it. I enjoy being in an atmosphere when debate is common, and we have a chance to fully develop our own personal ideologies.

However, the politically educated and passionate student groups are in the minority on college campuses. The remainder of students are politically apathetic and far from knowledgeable about what is going on in the world. Sure, I know politics can be annoying, but to ignore policies that have a drastic affect on your future is just downright stupid. I would rather see a peer join the College Democrats than remain apathetic. At least they’re fighting for something, even if I disagree with them wholeheartedly. Our generation has the potential to create great change. It’s unfortunate that many of my peers don’t seem to care about this potential.

While apathy appears to gain traction as students enter college, it’s actually a sentiment I believe originates earlier on in a student’s education. Almost all sides of the political spectrum agree that public education has decreased in efficiency over the years. In the last several decades, we have had an exponential increase in the amount of information recorded for students to learn. With such advanced technology, facts and events are recorded much more efficiently. Thus, to learn this vast amount of knowledge, students are often forced to memorize facts, dates, and vocabulary just so they can brush the surface on all of the information at our fingertips. This can cause an issue because students are taught what to learn instead of how to learn. The importance of critical thinking has decreased significantly in the field of education. When students are able to think for themselves, they tend to put more effort into searching for the truth. When they are spoon fed information, they learn to take it as fact and are apathetic towards finding the truth.

Apathy is also fueled by what is often called the “Participation Trophy Affect.” We have coddled our kids far too long. School, team, and club leaders are often too concerned with the “feelings” of children that they forget failure is often an inspiration for success. When a child loses a baseball game, or fails a test, they tend to work harder the next time so they don’t have to feel the sense of failure once again. However, when the “losers” get trophies and children are shielded for the “horrors” of the red pen, they don’t learn to pick themselves up when they fall. If they can’t experience failure, they don’t learn that actions have consequences. When children are shielded from consequences, they tend not to be as concerned with them. Thus, apathy becomes common.

College is the worst time to be apathetic. The policies at play right now will affect us more than people in older generations. Massive spending means the debt will be on our tab. An underfunded Social Security system means we will likely not get the rewards from paying into the system. This is time time to be active, not apathetic. If you’re not concerned with politics, what are you doing? This is our future on the line. It’s up to us to fight for it.

Amy Lutz | St. Louis University | @AmyLutz4