It is often said that the children of today are the future of tomorrow. As high schoolers, we are the ones who are expected to fix the problems of past generations and move society forward. But on top of that, we have also found ourselves bogged down by our own problems—whether they be exams, extracurriculars, or friends—taking the interest and focus we have on the world around us and turning it inward, limiting the scope we have on society at large. We have often found ourselves caught up in what is immediate and here, putting other issues on the backburner—at least for now.
In September, I attended a discussion on the events that had occurred over the summer in Ferguson. I had been keeping up with the protests and issues loosely through haphazard tweets and bolded headlines on the sidebars of sites like Facebook and Buzzfeed; I knew that for the most part, these sources were how many of my friends were keeping up with Ferguson, and I thought I was familiar enough with it to warrant a conversation. Yet, it staggered to a silence almost as quickly as it had begun—despite knowing bits and pieces about what had occurred, not everyone knew enough of the facts to help carry on a full discussion.
Events like Ferguson are contemporary issues that are currently hot topics in politics and the nation as a whole; these events are also the ones that directly affect us and the state of the society in which we’ll be living in the future. And if we don’t learn about them now, if we don’t keep ourselves updated and informed, when will we?
By keeping aware of the world, high schoolers also enable themselves to participate in causes they care about. Our perspectives are very different from those of the adults who are generally left to deal with problems, and we can use these perspectives to take matters into our own hands. Take Jack Andraka, the 18-year-old scientist from Maryland, for instance. When a family friend died from pancreatic cancer, Andraka began to read more about the disease and its detection—particularly how difficult it was to detect, and how often, once it was detected, it was already too far along to be cured. By the end of his freshman year at North County High School, he’d created a revolutionary new tool to detect the disease, one that is currently being tested to become commonly used within the next decade.
This innovation isn’t unique to Andraka—others have gone to an international scale, starting nonprofits to raise money for foreign orphans to go to college, and others have looked locally, creating organizations to combat injustices in communities. Each of these endeavors occurred only when someone recognized an issue in society and decided that he or she would be the one to do something about it.
As a high school student, my life as an “adult” feels so far away. But I am 16, and in just two years, I’ll be a legal adult—I’ll be able to vote, get a full-time job, use a credit card, attend jury duty. Each of these actions requires that I be at least familiar and up to date with current events, both nationally and internationally, within the city and state-wide. How else will I be sure that the candidates I vote for have all of my needs in mind? That they fairly represent what I support and my beliefs? That I, myself, know what I believe and support?
In the midst of school, community service, lessons, and the millions of other things we occupy ourselves with, keeping up with current events is usually made the lowest priority. But as high schoolers, we are responsible for the world we want to create for our future selves. The problems that are emerging today will be the problems we will have to solve later on, and so these are things we should familiarize ourselves with now, if not stick our toes into. Perhaps it is time for us to remember to turn off Netflix or the top 50 charts and turn to CNN or NPR instead—if even for just a few minutes a day.