How Can I Understand Politics? Tips for Teens

Today’s political landscape is combative, to say the least. Members of all political parties, all tout their opinions and solutions as definitive and deliberately speak out against those of other politicians and individuals. Those same political parties also fight amongst themselves about major issues. This has created a political atmosphere of confusion and finger-pointing, which can make it very difficult to understand what is actually going on.

Advocating your political position is commendable enough, but this very process of advocating is what makes understanding politics nearly impossible for many teens. Moreover, there are more ways than ever before for teens to invest their time today, and partially because of the mentioned overwhelming nature of politics, it’s common for young adults to turn their attention elsewhere to something they do understand or to just parrot the beliefs of the parents or friends.

But that’s not to say that learning about politics is impossible for teens who wish to do so—or even for those who think they might like to know a little bit more about the functions of government. Let’s take a look at some tips that are sure to make the process as easy and straightforward as possible!

Review the Basics

The loudest and most vocal political advocates—those who let everyone else know how they feel—usually focus on the hot-button topics, the things that are most likely to rile others up and provoke an argument or emotional reaction. But that isn’t where you need to start if you want to understand how things work.

The best way to figure out what is going on is to figure out how everything works. Do you know how our government functions? Do you understand the different branches of the government and what the responsibilities of each of them are? Do you know what the different levels of government are? If you can’t answer yes to these questions, it might be a good idea to start there before you move on to the current issues.

Start with Local Level Politics

The intensity of today’s presidential and congressional elections is certainly interesting, but it isn’t indicative of everything that is occurring politically, especially what is happening at the local and state levels. If you feel overwhelmed by the national level politics, it is okay to start small. By following local level politics, you can develop your understanding of how politicians respond to issues and challenges, as well as how they campaign generally.

Moreover, studying local level politics is also important in that it provides instantaneous and irrefutable feedback as to how effective (or ineffective) a politician’s particular maneuver is; this feedback comes in the form of responses from the local populace. When keeping up with local politics, it is also important to keep up with the local political news. This can give your experience understanding how politics is reported and how to form your own opinions, instead of relying on your parents.

Remember that Nothing is Black and White

Politicians on both sides of the aisle like to speak dramatically and take powerful stances on issues, but the reality is that nothing is definite in politics; the same thing is true for opinions issued by non-politicians. Grand gestures, responses to the latest problems, and more can change in no time at all, and to be sure, these things are likely to change over a multiyear period. Take every political statement and opinion with a grain of salt.

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