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Predicting political activism

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To most high school students, the football team’s record or the Homecoming King overshadow any need to understand politics.

But for a short while, local high school students shifted their focus away from gossip circles when they held mock presidential elections last week. The program, which originated in 1988, had around 350,000 participants across the state.

At Upper St. Clair High School, students went all-out for the mock elections in a manner usually reserved for pep rallies. Students donned McCain or Obama shirts and carried posters in support of their favorite candidate (or dissing the other). The school’s Law Club displayed life-size cutouts of the candidates above the voting booths.

Mock elections give students a chance to get involved in politics even though only very few of them can legally vote. They learn more about the political process prior to actually being of age, thus helping them make more informed decisions when the time does come. Studies show that students participating are more likely to vote in real elections, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Students must be informed about politics as early as possible. I felt so lost when I came to Carnegie Mellon and couldn’t contribute to political conversations (yes, I had a sheltered childhood). Mock elections have also spurred political activism in other ways; this year, many students volunteered for candidates’ campaigns.

However, do mock elections really give students the opportunity to learn, or just to reiterate their parents’ beliefs? From my own experience, many didn’t research the candidates, instead echoing whatever they heard from their parents. When asked to give the reasons behind their views, they couldn’t.

Whether mock elections help students to find their own views or just spread those of their parents, at least they acquaint them with the election process early. I hope this trend has — and continues to — spread past the region.