What kind of decisions do you have to make on a daily basis? Do you drop off your children at school, or are you one of the children yourself? “A poll of public school teachers finds that on average, high school students are assigned 3.5 hours of homework per weeknight, or more than 17 hours a week. Or that’s the teacher’s perspective, anyway.” (Klein, 2014).
With high school students on average spending 17 hours a week on homework, not including extracurricular activities and family obligations, it’s safe to assume your perception on what it means to be an American varies depending on your age. I am a Junior in highschool, and I personally can say I do not have enough time in my average work week to actively think about what being an American means to me. My current obligations as a 16 year-old girl are to be a good student, daughter, and civilian to my community. America has seen education as such an important task ever since the Second Great Awakening in the 1800’s.
As religion was in its second electrical current across America, people of religious faith believed America needed citizens with tools of knowledge at their grasp in order to have a positively functioning democracy. My rhetoric in this essay is not to derail the foundation of education America has built, nor criticize the democracy past and present generations have represented themselves in. I’m simply explaining why I’m not sure what being an American means to me yet, since I must be so many other things at the moment. My hypothesis is, once one has the time and permit to participate actively in our democracy, individuals will become sure of their opinions. At the moment, I’m attending a U.S. History course that has given me details about the broad topics I’ve heard about since elementary school.
At Ronan High School, you do not take Economics and Government until your senior year, the year most students become eligible to vote in local and national elections. Once one is given representation in choosing government leaders, then one will have a larger urge to create an opinion on what being a citizen is. They get to actively participate as one, compared to the millions that do not. Before I accidentally make this an essay about immigration, I digress. From what I have stated above, I hope you can collectively gather my evidential support for my claim that age affects perception of Americanism.
As one becomes an “adult” at the age of 18, one is granted many privileges and rights that pressures them to use the education they have been learning about since grade school. The whole foundation of the Second Great Awakening was to enlighten students about multiple subjects, including Social Studies, so they can make a logical decision about what candidate to choose. As one fades out of the schooling system, it can be hard to remember core details about history that shapes how politics are viewed today. At some point, people rely on biased news sources for their political agendas, creating one big secular society that has no different opinions, because we only listen to government officials that we agree with. This creates a generation of biased Americans who do not want to be either belittled by a child, or feel ignorant in a debate against an adult. Representation in government has been a fight for centuries.
Many small states at the Constitutional Convention did not want to discard the Articles of Confederation in replacement for the Constitution, but simply redact it. The fear of losing democratic representation through a stronger central government was something that states would rather secede from, than lose. The only thing that makes someone American before the age of 18 is citizenship. A younger person truly does not have any use for a political agenda if they can’t use it beyond the casual bickering of politics during Thanksgiving, in which most people don’t know what they’re talking about anyways. As American politics revolve around our democracy, due dates, a social life, and the pressures of becoming an adult revolve around mine.
There is no way I’m not an American because of my lack of right to vote. However, in my opinion, it’s as foundational as immigration is. Our religious freedom, right to bear arms, free speech, and many more are the core reasons why being an American is so great. However, it’s not too fun if you cannot utilize all of the resources you were born into.
Regardless of our lack of representation, I am impressed by the youth in today’s society regarding their balance of daily obligations, future goals, and opinions on politics. Even though we can merely argue with our peers, parents, and fellow voters, we manage to create a foundation of opinions towards the way our country is run. The stress high school students endure is sometimes compared to an insane asylum patient in the 1950’s. However, we somehow spared enough time to create a political identity to accompany our growing personalities and exhausted dispositions. Until I come of age, being an American to me will mean having the liberty, justice and freedom many don’t have, and others take for granted. Once I do come of age, I have a deep hope that having a say in who runs our country will spark an interest and belonging to a union, the way millions of adults are able to cherish to this day.