The war in Ukraine, North Korean aggression, and the complex conflicts in the Middle East provide us with no shortage of global affairs to worry about. Though these happenings and issues can impact everyone, young people typically take the brunt of it by forfeiting their futures to do what is necessary for their countries. The emotional burden of growing up surrounded by political conflict also factors into the uniqueness that is the younger generation’s normal. In Ukraine, the youth have had to essentially “grow up” overnight, while in the Middle East, years of conflict has robbed young people of opportunities to prosper.
Generation Z or Gen Z, defined as those born between the years of 1997-2012, are increasingly involved in their respective countries’ national politics, especially in the US where hot topic issues such as abortion rights are at the forefront of current political discourse. While domestic politics have caught their attention, this generation is not as engaged in foreign policy and global politics. Much of this stems from the fact that there is little to no comprehensive education surrounding international affairs in public schools. In the US, where the Common Core curriculum is used, there are no specific requirements for international relations courses at the K12 level.
Furthermore, Common Core standards can vary from state to state. Some students may receive a more comprehensive education about global affairs. Oftentimes, global politics or international relations courses aren’t even offered for students to take to fulfill the social studies requirements necessary to graduate high school. The option to take such courses is typically offered to students involved in specialized programs like the International Baccalaureate or Advanced Placement programs. This also leads to a lack of equal opportunity, as many of these programs are offered at schools in higher-income neighborhoods. Additionally, to even complete these programs and those similar to it, students have to pay hundreds of dollars for materials and final exams, therefore leaving those who cannot afford it, behind.
Why education now needs to include foreign policy and international affairs
As the rate of globalization and social media/internet use rise in conjunction, young people are best positioned to connect with the global community. Gen Z is more tech-savvy by nature, having been the first generation to grow up with technology. This means they have an advantage, and a more natural desire to leverage social media and the internet for the benefit of progress and change.
Young people are also usually the ones who spearhead social, political, and cultural movements and uprisings; evident throughout history. For example, the Arab Spring, Romanian Revolution, anti-war movement(s), and the Tiananmen Square Protests were all either initiated or largely carried out by young people. Even today, the recent revolutionary protests in Iran prove that the youth typically always play a large role in political and social movements.
Looking at patterns from the past to better understand the future is an aged concept; it’s one of the main reasons we study history. However, as our world becomes more interconnected by the day, the need to be aware of what is taking place on the global stage is becoming increasingly crucial. For a generation that has ‘seen’ the world like no other, and is naturally exposed to political discourse, public opinions and tragedies, not giving them a comprehensive background in its functioning is foolish. For example, knowledge of tactics and weapons used by the Russian government in Syria could have benefitted global understanding of the aggression in Ukraine. It could also alert us to potential strategies they may use, if studied closely.
Obviously, the first step to becoming civically engaged is being educated, reiterating my original point, the youth needs to be clued into global affairs in their formative years. Beyond education, young people also need to start being actively included in discussions surrounding global affairs. We have ideas, solutions, and the passion to get things done. Broadly speaking, young people always have untapped potential, and it’s important for us to have a seat at the table.
[Aashnaa Shah edited this piece.]
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
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