Youth Inaction: What Does Complacency Mean for the Future of Democracy?

July 2, 2012
by Lucy Hardy, RESULTS Global Legislative Intern

Often I find that people hide behind the belief “One person can’t change anything, so why bother?” This hackneyed excuse is a way for people, youth and adult alike, to feel content in their complacency. The only way to make sure the legislation that is important to you gets passed in Congress is to speak up! As a constituent, your member of Congress represents you and the people in your state and you can (and should!) hold them accountable, yet the voice of American youth is weak and civic participation on the youth level is mediocre at best. 

Wondering where this complacency comes from, I think back to the last time that I learned about American government and realize it was in my 8th grade government class discussing the three branches of government and how elections work. As a rising senior in college, I find it shocking that my education in civics ended there.

Years later, U.S. students are still stuck in this system with little exploration of our government or how to become involved and will become just as indifferent as many of my peers.

Recently, The Washington Examiner had the article “To Increase Knowledge of Civics, Try Teaching Civics” that pointedly addressed the lack of education for youth in terms of providing information on the practical and useful aspects of American government. For the most part, youth today lack training on their civic duties, local political leaders, and how to be an active participant even before they turn 18. In my not always humble opinion, this failure of education is resulting in the uninspiring shortage of civic participation and advocacy in American youth today. That is a sad realization since many hot-topic social issues affect youth in the United States, issues like education, vaccines, reproductive health, social welfare programs.

So, what can we do about it? Well, the good news is that there are many resources available that engage citizens of all ages in participating in democracy. Personally, I work with RESULTS, whose nonpartisan, non-governmental global and U.S. advocacy effects change for many key issues of poverty Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE from the Education for All Act, to ending child deaths caused by preventable and treatable diseases of poverty. I found that RESULTS provides tools and training to conduct effective and meaningful advocacy so that even as a beginner, I felt I had a stable foundation and a remarkable network of support. Find out how to join a local group, or to contact the political leaders in your area and become an advocate who fights the worst aspects of poverty around the world!

Currently in Congress, there are over 9,700 bills which are inactive, 287 waiting, and only 14 active. With an uninformed youth comes a bleak framework for the future. A complacent and non-participatory youth is not going to foster strong roots in democracy for future generations.  What will that mean for the future of democracy?

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