The Student Newspaper of Poly Prep Country Day School

The Polygon

The Student Newspaper of Poly Prep Country Day School

The Polygon

The Student Newspaper of Poly Prep Country Day School

The Polygon

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

The Next Generation of Voters: Are They Ready?

2024 is a pivotal year for politics, and the impressionable new adults who can vote for the first time could be a deciding factor in the fate of the election. High schools around the country are fostering the next generation of voters, and some of the senior class is about to step up to the ballot on November 3. It is vital to give the utmost preparation and guidance to the senior class to prepare them to enter the convoluted world of politics, especially this year, given the strain the election has placed upon the country. This importance led me to wonder if Poly is doing enough to prepare students to vote. Do they know enough about each candidate to cast a vote? Do they know enough about the election process to feel comfortable voting? 

I recently conducted a survey of Poly’s upper school, and with about 60 respondents, I was shocked by the results. 87.9 percent of the students voted between 1 and 3 on a 1-10 scale of whether Poly has done a sufficient job educating students about this year’s presidential candidates, 1 being “No, not at all” and 10 being “Yes, I have a good understanding on both candidates.”  82.4 percent of the students voted between 1 and 4 on a 1-10 scale for the question, “Do you think Poly has done a sufficient job educating students about the election process in general?” (1 being “No, I have no knowledge about the election process,” and 10 being “Yes, I feel very confident with the election process.”) Senior Lucas Basham, who recently voted for the first time, said, “I didn’t know what to expect of what the ballot would look like and what the setup would look like inside [to vote].” 30 percent of Upper School students who participated in the survey are eligible to vote in the general election, but only 64.9 percent of those students plan on casting a ballot. These results led me to wonder if Poly had made any efforts to educate the student body about the election. If less than two-thirds of eligible seniors plan to vote on election day, has Poly done a good enough job of emphasizing the importance of our democracy and the weight that this election has? This information made me ponder whether Poly is doing enough to make students, especially seniors, understand their importance in the upcoming election.

After discussing these questions with Sarah Bates, head of Upper School, and Virginia Dillion, chair of the History Department, I learned more about Poly’s strides in familiarizing students with the pressing political matters. For the 2024-2025 school year, the History Department is instituting a new, required, one-semester course for juniors that is a “civics and democracy course,” Bates said. The course will cover everything from human rights to the Supreme Court to religious rights in America, but it will also take on more of a democratic standpoint and teach students about the election process in general. “Where do you register to vote? What does that mean for you? Who are your district, your county, and your city leaders? How do you sort through the noise of social media and all of the political ads to figure out what does this candidate truly believes in, what policies are they gonna enact, and how does that line up with my own values and what I want for me, my family and my country?” Bates explained. This new course will hopefully alleviate some of the confusion that students are feeling surrounding the election process and foster a student body that feels more confident to go out and vote. Of course, the implementation of this class next year does not include the current seniors, who “absolutely we want them to vote in November,” Bates said. 

The History Department is configuring a compilation of lessons and History Talks in an attempt to educate the student body about the upcoming election. “We are starting to do some educational programming around the election. The History teachers are gonna be doing a lesson for both Middle Schoolers and Upper Schools in the spring,” said Dillon. “We’ll also have some lessons in the fall — a lot of those lessons that are gonna be more about the process of voting, about what elections are like, why they’re important, what they mean.” Dillon also recognizes that the elections “can be moments of lots of anger and pain and divisiveness, and there can be moments when our community doesn’t feel like a community.” When talking about politics and the election process, she noted that Poly faculty must foster a peaceful and accepting environment, even when things get heated and controversial. Some of these History Talks will take place in the spring, while the follow-up History Talks and assemblies will occur this fall. 

 I believe that the History Talks discussions haven’t been enough of an effort to reach students and that some students still don’t understand their role in the election. With students juggling hours of homework, sports, and extracurriculars, the History Talks don’t seem to be taking precedence in the busy schedule of a high-school student. The importance of the information given in these History Talks hasn’t been emphasized enough by the faculty, so students don’t have a great enough incentive to attend. “I don’t think Poly’s education on the election reaches enough students. In my journalism class, and I’m sure in certain history classes, the election comes up in conversation, but if a student doesn’t have one of those classes it’s unfortunate that those discussions don’t reach them,” Basham said. It’s unclear to me if Poly seniors are retaining enough information from Poly to have sufficient knowledge about politics and the upcoming election when they take the next step into their college towns. 

Poly is taking a neutral approach to teaching students about the candidates in general. Instead of trying to sway students one way, it is important to give students the path to accurate information and allow them to make their own decisions. “I’m not instituting any sort of personal biases that I have in trying to convince groups of students to vote one way or another. Like what’s really important to me is that you all have accurate information and you know where to find accurate information,” Bates said.  

Another critical aspect of this year’s election is disinformation, especially given the rise of AI. In my survey, over half of the respondents voted between 7-10 on a 10-point scale of whether Poly has taught students to be skeptical of the media and flag disinformation, with 1 being “no, not at all” and 10 being “yes, I feel very comfortable with these skills.” I think that these higher results for this category compared to the other categories are due to Poly’s curriculum. “I’ve received the most guidance and information in terms of the presidential election in my seventh and eighth-grade history classes, in my tenth-grade history class, U.S. News, Networks, and Democracy, and in my journalism class,” Basham said. Respondents mentioned Chair of the Computer Science Department Jean Belford’s Disinformation and Democracy class and Director of Forensics and Debate Eddie Fitzgerald’s Debate class, as well as an assembly focusing on biases and disinformation in the media. Next year’s new civics and democracy course, as well as numerous History Talks about the election, will hopefully make students feel more comfortable with the election process and this year’s presidential candidates. 

Hopefully, the seniors who are going to vote this November feel that they have enough knowledge to vote, although it may have just been better for these advancements in the History and Civics curriculum to have come slightly earlier. In all, I anticipate only positive growth in political and civics education in Poly’s curriculum, and hopefully, by 2028, the student body will feel more confident before casting their votes.  

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Lila Daniels
Lila Daniels, Features Editor
Lila Daniels is a current sophomore features editor for the Polygon, after writing numerous articles in her 8th and 9th grade years. She writes across all sections, from fun opinions articles, to enticing sports articles and informative news articles, she truly loves it all. Apart from the Polygon, Lila is a tri-season athlete, student-government representative (when she is not attending Polygon meetings), and a Blue Key member. In her free time, Lila enjoys cuddling with her dog, re-watching her comfort tv shows, and eating chocolate ice cream (with sprinkles, of course). Lila cannot wait to write some captivating articles this year, get ready Poly!

Comments (0)

All The Polygon: The Student Newspaper of Poly Prep Country Day School Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *