The News: A Civic Duty for All Ages

Tazwell Brandabur

The Charter Opinions

12/19/20

Journalism is more important in this day and age than ever before. The modern world requires people of all ages to make important decisions well past the scope of their immediate senses. Journalism allows readers to make these decisions by providing reliable information on subjects beyond what a reader can directly experience. The gravity of the choices citizens must make means staying informed is a civic duty.

For example, most voters in the United States have little direct experience with charter schools like ACA. Even though charter schools each serve a local population, they operate by permission of state and federal laws, over which U.S. voters have substantial influence. American voters also control a financial aid program, military, and GDP, larger than those of any other population on the planet. Citizens elect leaders they have never met, invest through taxes in infrastructure they may never personally use, and support wars in lands they’ve never visited. Without consumption of reliable journalism on these complex issues, voters can’t make informed decisions. 

Unfortunately, most Americans aren’t adequately informed. As of 2019, barely 6 percent of U.S. voters could pass a basic test on the current world order and geography. Less than half of the US population consumes more than a headline in a given week. Closer to home, a 2014 Gallup poll found that half of voters believe charter schools like ACA can charge admission (false), exclude students based on disability (false), and legally teach religion (false). The people who decide the fate of ACA and influence much of the free world too often don’t hold relevant, factual information on these topics.

Regardless of opinion or political stance, the uninformed voter simply isn’t playing on the same field as a voter with all the facts; they’re debating a different set of pros and cons for every issue. In the case of charter schools, half of the population believes that charter schools are inequitable, private, and often religious organizations. The other half understands that charters are required by law to be free to attend, non-religious, and open to students regardless of ability. 

If charter school regulation came to a vote, only half of the voters would be debating the issue at hand–Should public, equitable, non-religious charter schools be legal?–but both groups would have very real influence over the decision. This pattern holds true for any potential issue on a ballot. Voters make choices necessary to the nation regardless of how well-informed they are. In order for these decisions to be made responsibly, or even in a manner that reflects the voters’ wishes, every voter must stay informed.

One might argue that this responsibility rests with adults of voting age alone. Most minors cannot vote. If citizens must stay informed purely to make good choices when voting, it could be argued that young people have little responsibility to keep up with current events. However, minors substantially influence the world in other ways.

For instance, companies in the US have long engaged in corporate lobbying: influencing law-making to benefit private interests. Those with enough money to lobby can substantially change US law. In 2018, teenagers alone spent 77.2 billion dollars. That’s a lot of Yeezeys, and, for the companies who can rake it in, this money buys a lot of influence. Minors control which companies get these profits, and therefore indirectly wield a lot of the same power adults do. 

Young people also build up personal experience through which they will interpret future information, and with which they will make future choices. Although core beliefs can change, most citizens don’t shift much from year to year, meaning opinions not necessarily based in fact can pursue minors well past the age of 18. In other words, an uninformed childhood can be just as damaging as an uninformed adulthood.

Once a population is informed, each citizen can make their own decisions, based on their own criteria. They can vote, decide not to vote, and form opinions that are grounded in fact. For an informed populace, the power conferred by a vote or a dollar is no longer a potential hazard, but an incredibly powerful tool. Journalism may not itself be the solution to every problem, but consuming fact-based news gives a reader the ability to engage with the complex issues of the modern world.

Sources:

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