It Is An Obligation

17269883_1051284208309524_1265382652_oPhoto Taken By Best Photographer Mr. Ziebarth

I had the amazing opportunity this past Wednesday to visit the state capitol of Sacramento, California to meet with my representatives and discuss politics with those who actually wield the power to make change where I live. I, along with four of my peers, were among a group of ten students chosen as winners of LegiSchool’s statewide essay contest. The focus of the essay was on whether or not school start times should be delayed to later in the day. In unbeknownst to us at the time, a bill (SB – 328) was already being drafted that, if put into effect, would mandate no school start before 8:30 a.m.

My essay had originally been all for the bill. Like many other high school students, I find myself never being able to get enough sleep. I literally have to set five consecutive alarms every morning, and I only really wake up on the fifth one. I disregarded the fact that the bill wouldn’t actually reduce my load of homework, instead I believed like Senator Portantino, the bill’s author, that the benefits of aligning school with the natural circadian rhythm of teenagers would lead to increased learning and overall performance and mood. While this is proven by studies conducted over the past couple of years, there were many other factors that I had failed to consider.

It was only when I was able to meet the local level of administrators, teachers, principals, district supervisors, that I truly grasped the whole picture. They pointed out all the logistical problems with imposing a mandate over such a large and diverse state. The already dwindling education funds would not be able to afford the new transportation and staff costs to look over children whose parents would not be able to adjust to the shift in schedule. These factors along with many other issues opened my eyes and changed my stance on the topic.

I guess the main thing to take away from this experience and the message that LegiSchool is trying to get out in the first place is that political participation is extremely important and it is best that we start early because, frankly, we will be the ones making the laws and voting on them in the next few years. Ignorance is dangerous and before I was able to speak to those more familiar on the matter at the Board of Education, I was ignorant myself at all the problems the new bill would cause. It is only when I was presented with the opportunity to take the initiative to do research and make the effort in meeting the lawmakers that I finally realized what a mistake voting without educating yourself is.

It is for this reason that I would like to end this post on a call to action. Students and even adults who are reading this, if you are not already actively participating in your government I highly encourage you to do so. So many people in this country complain that the government is doing everything wrong, but they forget that the democratic constitution gives the power to the people to make change. If you see something you want to change, go out and make that change. Even voting is a step in the right direction. Political participation is a right and I would even go as far to say that it is an obligation in a democracy.

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