There’s a lot of anxious speculation about the youth vote wildcard, whether young people will turn out and tip the election or shrug off responsibility and stay on the couch.
It scapegoats young people for embodying worrying trends that are broad-based and affect other age groups.
Hackers, trolls, and death threats have been the wages of young people’s activism.
The last national Civics Assessment found only 23 percent of eighth graders proficient, but only 19 percent of people 45 and under were able to pass a simple civics test.
We need to stop blaming young people for these broader phenomena to discern the drivers behind them.
If there is one, overarching factor that cuts across age groups but affects young people disproportionately, it’s the firehose of social and economic change we’re living through.
But young people are the ones who see it’s a new game.
But politicians don’t understand it as young people do.
But they don’t speak to the existential question young people face: how they’ll live, work and engage in the changemaker era.
Any tech executive will tell you the key to surviving and thriving amid rapid change is breaking down silos and bringing people together to solve problems and leverage opportunities.
To fully engage young people, electoral politics and candidates would need to do the same: embrace continual innovation, not nostalgia; value empathy, inclusion, and working together in fluid, diverse teams, not authoritative hierarchies; reach across divides, not build new ones; elicit everyone’s contribution, not demonize or marginalize those with different views.
Whether or not young people turn out sufficiently to influence the midterms, they’ve got a bigger task in front of them: reshaping our politics.
That’s the politics young people seek, and it’s up to them to build it.
He has been the Global Chair for Framework Change at Ashoka, with its Lead Young campaign, and has taught courses and residencies around the world on youth as agents of transformative change.
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