I’m spending this high school year as an exchange student in Vassar, Michigan. Vassar is a small town of just 2,700 residents. Ethnically, it is less diverse than the nation on average: Almost nine out of ten residents are white, almost every tenth resident is African American, and other groups (Asian Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans) make up an extremely small percentage of the population, according to the 2010 census.
When I think about the upcoming elections and how young people my age perceive them, I can almost certainly predict that many teenagers will not make an effort to read beyond the headlines on Facebook or Twitter to learn about this race. “American politics, why is that interesting for me?”, is what you are probably asking yourself right now. Well, besides having the strongest national economy in the world, the second largest military and the third biggest population, the United States of America is Europe’s closest partner.
»American politics, why is that interesting for me?.«
American high school students learn about American politics every day in their government class. But politics is not really a topic at the lunch table or in the hallways. When some weirdo (in this case me) starts a discussion about politics, everybody starts to have a very defined and “factual” opinion. As in other parts of the world, young people often adopt their parents’ or grandparents’ political views and preferences. But it impresses me that the students listen to each other. They argue, but are open for compromise.
I actually had a really interesting conversation, with an African-American kid and a son of an ex-Marine. We actually came to a point where both were considering support for the non-mainstream candidates libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party member Jill Stein (pictured to the right). Only that the biggest reason to vote for them would be “that they’re not Hillary or Trump”.
So far, my impression is that adults follow the election campaign very closely, consulting different media and channels -- after all, adult Americans are those who will vote in November. Here in Michigan, an important swing state, where the presidential race is tight every four years, a lot of people do not make their cross in the same spot every presidential cycle, which makes it one of the most interesting states to follow. Right now, state polls show Senator Hillary Clinton slightly ahead of businessman Donald Trump.
Five more weeks to go until Election Day. I’m curious about its outcome, and so are my fellow students.
Images courtesy of TownMapsUSA and Twitter.
Felix Wortmann is a high school student from Berlin and currently as an exchange student in Michigan exploring high school life there. Felix participated in Going Green together with his school class (and won an award). He will provide the "one step removed" perspective on the elections.