Awareness behind it all

Are high school students politically informed?

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"Iowa Capitol" by mjldesmoines is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

Midterm elections in Iowa are on Tuesday, November 8. Voters will have the opportunity to vote for governor as well as House and Senate candidates on the state and national level.

Ankeny High School students admit to being unaware to policies, laws, bills, and the educational stake in the upcoming midterm elections in Iowa. 

Midterm elections are just around the corner on Nov. 8 and many district and statewide candidates’ main area of emphasis surrounds the world of education, specifically new innovative ways for funding and curriculum for Iowa students. 

A majority of 137 polled Ankeny High School students reported that they have no awareness of the upcoming election, some even stating that they do not care about politics as a whole. With 53 percent of  students not considering themselves politically knowledgeable, the question began to arise: What is the importance of being politically involved, and what impact does politics have on students’ education, both in the present and the future? 

“Whenever I speak with students, I remind them that the decisions made at every level of government affect them just as much as adults,” Iowa House Candidate Heather Matson (D) said. 

Out of 137 Ankeny High survey participants, less than half of students that responded to an anonymous online survey reported that they were politically knowledgeable.

Running for district 38, Matson is a heavy advocate for increasing school funding, specifically funding for public schools, as well as proper representation for educators. 

Approximately 85.8 percent of students polled admitted that they were not knowledgeable of the student voucher policy that Governor Kim Reynolds proposed in early 2022. The student voucher policy, or the Student First Scholarship Program, is a program that gives impoverished students and their parents the opportunity to use taxpayer-funded scholarships in order to attend private schools.

Students overwhelmingly responded to the anonymous survey that they were unaware of Iowa Governor Kim Reynold’s proposed student voucher policy that could possibly provide government funding for students to attend private schools.

“The idea is to help those who need the help the most,” Iowa House Candidate Eddie Andrews (R) said.

Republican candidates including Andrews support this policy claiming that the measure will be beneficial to underprivileged students who otherwise could not afford to attend private schools. However, state Democrats oppose using taxpayer dollars in order to fund private education, citing a belief that public schools should be receiving government funding rather than private schools. This legislature has the potential to impact many students in the state of Iowa and is one of the hot-ticket topics of the upcoming elections.    

Ankeny High School students also reported that they were unaware of the parental rights bill that was introduced to the House on Nov. 11, 2021. The parental bill of rights, which Andrews was also an advocate for, establishes various rights of parents and guardians regarding the elementary or secondary school education of their minor children.

Some Ankeny High students said that they would consider this bill an abuse of power, although 75 percent of polled students were unaware of this measure. 

Polled students also reported being unaware of the parental rights bill, which would give parents/guardians the ability to curate their child’s school curriculum.

The question of the importance of political knowledge among students is still at hand.

“Students should have an incredible amount of knowledge about education and politics,” social studies teacher Lisa Cook-Piccolo said.  “Politics can frame what students learn or what students don’t learn. It also provides and limits opportunities for students in courses they take, schools they go to, etc.”

The importance of political education is increasing with every upcoming election and with it the effort to educate students about politics. 

Regardless of political party, candidates, educators, and students alike can all agree on one thing: politics impact every facet of life in America, and being politically educated is crucial for the future of students. 

“I feel like a lot of students just think, ‘well [politics are] for the adults,'” senior and founder of the Ankeny Student Political Engagement Club (SPEC) Jemma Bullock said. “That’s not true because there are a lot of things students can do if they want to make a change.”