Just how informed are SPFHS students?


Emily Wyrwa

Currently, American society is watching history unfold when they turn on the news. The people of this country are becoming increasingly aware of the political climate and are able to better advocate for their beliefs in the digital age. Not all people, however, choose to remain informed on national politics. This divide raises the question of where Scotch-Plains Fanwood high school students fall on the political scale and whether or not they follow politics.
In a survey of 100 SPFHS students, only 27 know who both their senators are; 22 know one senator but not the other. That means that 51% of surveyed students do not know who their senators are. The majority of students identify as liberal (45%), followed closely by moderate (42%). 13% of surveyed students feel as though their political beliefs are more conservative.
In the survey, students were asked to select the top five political issues they felt were most important from a list of 11. The three most commonly selected issues were: the environment, gun control, and education.

The looming question is this: do SPFHS students actually watch the news? In the survey of 100 students, 21 said they never watch the news; only 6 watch the news every day. The majority of students watch the news either a few times a week, once a week, or once every two weeks. The vast majority of students primarily consume their news via social media (57%). The next most common means of consumption is TV news with 21%.

The pie chart above depicts the frequency that SPFHS students watch the news. 21% of students said that they never watch the news.

The pie chart above depicts the frequency that SPFHS students watch the news. 21% of students said that they never watch the news.
Some students only follow the news when there are large events such as an election on the horizon.
“Sometimes [I watch the news], it depends on the issue because sometimes the issues are very boring but sometimes they are very interesting,” Carly Walker said. “For example, I like to stay on top of the election but I do not follow the economy.”
Students’ opinions on the importance of following current events greatly differed. Students overwhelmingly agreed that they feel that currents events do not yet apply to them since they are under 18 years old and are unable to vote. On the other hand, some students are passionate that their involvement in the news cycle does not have to start on their 18th birthday.
“I think it is important to follow the news because people need to know what’s going on so they can protect themselves out in the world with the new things going on,” Andrew Susino said. “People should utilize the privilege we have to easily learn things that are happening throughout the whole country.
“It can be important to follow the news as it lets you see the world’s struggles and the otherwise secluded world of politics,” Marcus Sandy said. “In addition to this, if you follow a story extensively from multiple angles, it can allow you to understand multiple perspectives and formulate your own argument for or against an issue. However, all of this is somewhat in vain if you don’t try to enact some sort of change. What is the point of formulating a plan of action and never using it?”
Students are also concerned with how the current political climate may impact them emotionally and in their day-to-day lives.
“I care about national politics, but I don’t let it consume my attention,” Miles Roper said. The political atmosphere in America is very polarized and divisive — I feel like investing myself too much into politics will cause me to embody that. It’s always important to stay updated: the more informed you are, the more you can contribute intellectually to society.”
Although the students of SPFHS are somewhat split as to whether or not American politics are important for them to follow, they remain passionate about the issues they care most about and recognize the importance of remaining informed in order to contribute to society and support their opinions.