Here are some areas that most of us can focus on to meet this challenge. First, this is an election year and there are so many other things happening in the world that we should be aware of. So the challenge here is enlightenment and awareness. In other words finding out what is really going on in your world; not just locally, but globally.
This is an area where I fear the youth are seriously lacking knowledge. The reason that this is alarming is because the world is becoming a very small place and global knowledge will be a necessity in a number of career fields in the very near future. In my classroom I often discuss world events with students to assess what they know about what is going on in the world. Unfortunately, I have come to the conclusion that you, our young people, don’t know as much as you should.
Please don’t take offense though; I know it is not totally your fault. In fact, the problem is much bigger than you. U.S. society is a based on capitalism, which essentially means that money is what controls many things in this country. This also means that our society is very competitive, creating a survival of the fittest, a dog-eat-dog scenario for all of us.
So what does this have to do with being aware of the world around you? It’s simple—we are programmed to place value on so many things that are not necessities in life that we lose focus or we are distracted from what is really important.
Let me give you some examples. As young people, most of you are faced with a ton of pressure to dress, talk, and act a certain way. This pressure is present regardless of what type of crowd you associate with, whether it’s gothic, athletic, Hip Hop, prep, suburban, hood, academic, or a combination of any of these.
Your crowd may dress/look a certain way, listen to a certain type of music, drive a certain type of car, or hang at certain places. Now here is where the focus is shifted; you get caught up because you want that new Hollister outfit, fresh new J’s or One’s, 20’s and beat for your ride, that shirt and chain from Hot Topic, Under Armour, MP3 player, new cell, bling, or a new hair style. Regardless, these are all things that are material; trust me, I am guilty as well. I love the feeling of getting a brand new suit, watch, or outfit just as much as anyone else.
Here is how we can make a change…read, listen, and watch. These are all things that you probably do already; all you have to do is make it a point to regularly switch what you are reading, listening to, and watching. These are my suggestions: read newspapers thoroughly, not just the sports and horoscopes, and not just local ones. Try the USA Today and New York Times. Keep in mind that almost all newspapers are available on the internet.
Next time you are in your doctor’s or dentist’s office read Time or Newsweek instead of Sports Illustrated or Cosmo. Listen to NPR (National Public Radio)—this is a radio program focused on world issues; it features discussions on various topics and guest speakers from various backgrounds including political, diplomatic, art, and music.
I know this may not sound too exciting right now but give it a try and I guarantee you’ll learn something every time you listen. Here are some of the NPR stations, for the Detroit area 91.7 FM or 101.9 FM, Toledo 91.7 FM, Cleveland/Lorain area 89.7 FM or 90.3 FM, and for Columbus 89.7 FM, 90.5 FM, or 106.7 FM. Watch something educational. Great options are these channels on cable: CNN, Fox News, BBC, Discovery Times Channel, Bridge, History Channel, Al Jazeera, and Discovery to name a few of my personal favorites. If you don’t have cable, watch your local news and PBS.
The point is this: it is crucial for you to expand your knowledge-base beyond what you already know. As I stated previously, the world is getting smaller and young people in other countries know a lot more about you than you probably know about them.
The presidential election is looming and it promises to be a very competitive race. Do you know who is running? What are the most talked about issues facing the candidates? If you are of voting age and are unable to answer both of these questions, then you have some work to do. This could arguably be the most important election in our country’s history, because the result could give us our first female or minority president. As a member of society, I believe it is our duty to vote and to vote knowledgeably and not blindly; so do your homework.
If you can’t vote yet, you should still be paying attention to the election and issues. You will be voting soon so utilize the opportunity as a ‘warm up’ for future elections. You may even be able to help your parents make their final choice in the election. Some of the key issues you should be aware of and the stance each candidate takes on them include education, defense, domestic policy, foreign relations, and immigration. So find out what candidates share your values and opinions.
There are number of other areas that you can make improvements in your life—just remember that knowledge is something that no one can take from you. The more you know, the better equipped you are for your time to run this country. Trust me, it will be here soon and maybe you will be the face of change that is needed in this world. Saber es poder, ‘knowledge is power’ so go ahead and flex your muscles. ¡Hasta la próxima vez!