Keeping up with (DOW) Joneses
Students should follow current events for both practical and personal interest
When it came time for me to sit down and write my column for this week, I was at a loss. I was surprised to feel that, two weeks into school, I had no big opinion regarding the University at all worth transcribing. President Teresa Sullivan’s story had been covered from all angles, and I knew of nothing else going on, so I turned to local, national and international news and was startled at how much was going on in the world that I had missed since returning to school.
The Democratic National Convention went down this past week, and former President Bill Clinton got rave reviews for his speech in supports of President Obama. Tensions are mounting between China and other Asian nations as numerous countries stake claims in the South China Sea. Drew Peterson was convicted after the 2004 death of his wife, Kathleen Savio. A whole host of events is occurring here at home and around the world, and I have not been paying the least bit of attention. This past week has illustrated to me that I am not the only one.
Based on what I have seen since returning to the University, I would have to conclude that my generation is either apathetic about current events, or has lost track of things since classes started. More than half of my professors have made at least one inquiry in class about something they heard on the news, and those professors have been consistently met with blank stares — although this could be the reluctance for students to answer in class. The most frustrating part for me is that although I spent most of last year in-the-know, I have been just as silent as the rest. It was then that I realized I had lost track of the outside world.
I did some research into this topic, and found numerous studies that report findings of poor current-events knowledge among high school and college students. A 2007 study by Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government found that only one in twenty teenagers, and one in twelve young adults, read the newspaper regularly. A 2009 study by IBM found that only 54 percent of people aged 18 to 24 had read even a single online news article in the past year. Why is this the case? I bet there are a good number of young people who are just too lazy or disinterested, but they, as well as those who genuinely care, can point the finger of blame, fairly truthfully, at the combination of the college workload, the social activities, the responsibilities and the general stress of day-to-day life. We are bombarded daily with book knowledge and finding time to seek additional knowledge is not an appealing prospect. When we are finally presented with a chance to relax, some of us may not want to turn on the news and catch up with what is going on — most of us are going to get on Facebook, or watch a few episodes of “How I Met Your Mother,” which has recently become my personal favorite method of slacking.
It is possible to keep up — I know a select few students who are always up-to-speed with the news. Our teachers are staying current, too. The rest of us can either look at college as an island, disconnected from the world, or as the next step to actually being a part of that world. We will hold jobs in a market being defined by today’s events, working in industries that government policies are altering. If we look past the few years we have at college, we have to take current events seriously, because that is where we will be soon.
Only a few teachers will ever force their students to follow current events. This week, my teachers will more than likely ask the class this or that about Syria or the upcoming presidential election, and my goal is to have an answer. In the end, it is up to us as students to make the time to familiarize ourselves with what is going on in the world we are about to enter.
Sam Novack’s column appears Wednesdays in The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.