So much at risk…

October 26, 2022

Much is at stake in the election just days away. Decisions surrounding local and national issues will crucially affect our generation. From abortion rights to inflation, students need to engage in the election as Illinois and the nation sit at a political crossroads. To become informed, seek diverse and credible sources and critically reject misinformation campaigns.

Misleading campaign mailings circulating

Shoved in your mailbox, the Chicago City Wire looks like any other local newspaper. Printed on a newsprint and folded like a traditional tabloid, its front page reads: “Real data, real news.” 

Conservative groups, critical of current Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, have taken to this form of misleading election propaganda. Through printed publications, political action committees like the Chicago City Wire blast Democratic candidates and stances that support topics from a criminal justice reform bill to gender identity. 

In the weeks leading up to the Nov. 8 election, conservative-funded mailers have been widely sent to Illinois voters. Styled as newspapers, these politicized mailings are not marked as campaign material and have gained traction in areas where local newspapers have been on the decline. 

“[These mailings are] put out by this right-wing network of newspapers that we all know exists in Illinois, and they’re trying to take over where local, real journalism unfortunately has receded,” Gov. Pritzker said in an interview with NBC5.

As these mailings continue to circulate, there has also been a growth in politics-oriented and unbiased news sources this election cycle.

Students are encouraged to actively seek out credible and local sources. 

“It’s important to look at if the organization follows the basic, principal journalistic ethics: does it retract factual mistakes, does it have a robust legal staff that keeps it on its toes? Where does it get its news from?” history teacher Cynthia Jurisson said. “Those are really important questions, so just a lot of the stuff you see [on social media] doesn’t follow those principles.”

According to Dr. Jurisson, some news sites have advertisements that use manipulative or deceptive headlines to encourage viewer clicking.

“They want you to click and click and click, and they know that more [emotionally manipulative] headlines cause people to click, and advertisers’ fees to advertise are based often on traffic — how many clicks, how many listeners, how many viewers you get,” she said.

They want you to click and click and click, and they know that more [emotionally manipulative] headlines cause people to click, and advertisers’ fees to advertise are based often on traffic — how many clicks, how many listeners, how many viewers you get.”

— Cindy Jurisson

Dr. Jurisson emphasized the importance of fact-checking and developing familiarity with established and credible news outlets, specifically utilizing exterior fact-checking sites. 

“You can look at sites that rate the credibility of news, like say factcheck.org is a great site. Their attempt is to say, ‘Let’s determine if this is factually correct reporting,’” she said.

As the availability of local news declines, national news outlets and social media have taken their place. With this shift come concerns about credibility and accuracy. 

Susan Augustine, a high school librarian, said, “I do think people are starting to realize that maybe social media isn’t the best place to find reliable stories and that they sometimes have to dig a little bit deeper or look at multiple sources to get accuracy.” 

News outlets cannot be completely unbiased, but they hold a responsibility to acknowledge and try to prevent biases in their reporting, according to Dr. Jurisson.

“What’s best is to acknowledge we have biases, ones we are aware of and ones we’re not aware of, so we know that news sources also can not be completely unbiased,” she said.

She said that sources like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal both have transparent editorial policies, which distinguishes them from being manipulative. 

Ms. Augustine emphasized the importance of broadening the array of news media individuals consume by listening to political debates and interviews. 

“Let’s say you read the [Chicago] Sun-Times, diversify that by reading the [Chicago] Tribune or reading the Hyde Park Herald, which is going to have information on local candidates,” she said.

When researching the major candidates in the upcoming election, Ms. Augustine suggests using a trusted organization to research the ballot. 

“If there’s an organization that you trust, like the League of Women Voters, they have people within their organization that do the research and determine who they think is a good candidate and they will give you a list,” Ms. Augustine said, “and when you don’t have a lot of time to do all the investigation yourself, that can be really helpful.”

Additionally, Dr. Jurisson recommended subscribing to long-form journalism publications and websites to access and support credible journalism. 

“There are journals – The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Harpers, a number of long-form essay journals that have similar principles of journalistic integrity,” Dr. Jurisson said. “You want to have credible news yourself but we need to support responsible, integrity-filled journalism.” 

Students play active role in election, affect votes

If you are a U.S. citizen who is 18 or will turn 18 before Election Day, Nov. 8, you are eligible to register to vote. Since the deadlines for in-person, by-mail and online registration vary, those interested in registering should look for more information online. Once registered, online resources are available to find your polling places.

Although most Lab students are too young to vote, there are still ways to be a part of the process. Students can support candidates by encouraging their family to donate or by attending promotional events, can reach out to polling places looking for volunteers and can vocalize their opinions on political issues. 

Students can also encourage other family members, friends and fellow students to vote. Junior Maria Razborova is working to increase voter engagement at Lab. Maria said that participation in the elections is extremely important.

“People are seeing how politics is directly affecting their lives,” Maria said. “And so I think [voting] is a great way to get engaged in democracy. Even if you think your vote isn’t doing anything, every vote counts.”

How are you getting involved in the elections?

Through the League of Women Voters of Chicago, Maria Razborova is currently working within Lab “to get all the seniors that are eligible to vote to get registered.” Maria said that “understanding the stakes of elections and why midterms are important” is crucial for both those who can and cannot vote.

As part of a Student Council initiative focused on expanding voting education, senior Lena Stole is handing out mail-in registration forms and lists of resources for voters to conduct their own research on the elections. “I think it’s really important especially to get high school students to vote,” Lena said. “We are sort of this younger generation and I think a lot of the time, our voices aren’t heard by politicians.”

On her social media, junior Katie Williams is spreading information relating to voter registration and applications for poll worker positions. Katie said she is also learning about the “overall importance of youth advocacy… [and] how one’s voice truly matters” through Junior State of America, a club she is involved with. 

“I feel like democracy [is only] what you make of it,” Katie said. “So I feel like if we have mass participation, then our changes will eventually come.”

Beware of groups, candidates seeking to undermine voting rights, violence

“There’s nothing wrong with Illinois that can’t be fixed with some conservative common sense,” reads the website Illinois state Sen. Darren Bailey, the Republican nominee for governor.
On Aug. 16, Bailey spoke at a rally at the Illinois Capitol sponsored by AWAKE Illinois, a conservative organization that focusses on parent advocacy, to address “radical sex education standards.”
AWAKE also targets school boards, objecting to critical race theory, aiming to ban books they find offensive and inapropriate, and protesting against nationwide sex ed curriculums.
Bailey has sought the organization’s support, and AWAKE has provided it, assured that he supports their goals.
The reach of groups such as AWAKE goes beyond school boards. Inflammatory causes are being used by candidates and advocacy groups to motivate voters using fear, playing into the polarization of political and human issues and the influence of elections.
At their core, these inflammatory issues spur voters to see their own freedom and livelihood as being on the ballot in the upcoming election, only a few votes from being taken away.
Candidates such as Bailey are incentivized to frame issues this way, prompting a passionate base which is more likely to donate and vote.
“Funding is a major problem right now where candidates are trying to attract money for campaigns,” U-High history teacher Cindy Jurisson said. “They see that the best way to get money is to churn outrage and fear in voters, so they feel they are voting out of concern for their very survival.”
With the funds to advocate for issues, these groups frequently target marginalized groups.
Recently in west suburban Downers Grove, a Drag Queen bingo event organized by the public library was canceled after an onslaught of threats. The library also received a letter, addressed by “Your Friends at Maga,” and accompanied by a bullet and a Confederate flag.
Members of a Facebook group planned a protest outside, one member even suggesting people “bring weapons” to the LGBTQ youth-aimed gathering.

We have people who are dealing from a sense of profound fear because they no longer see a place for themselves in American society. That perception can lead them to use strategies and endorse claims that do not follow democratic norms.”

— Cindy Jurisson

After the event was canceled, members of AWAKE Illinois rejoiced in a blog post, celebrating a “victory for the protection of all children.”
David Goldenberg of the Anti-Defamation League has witnessed extremism among a select conservative base gain momentum in past years.
The ADL’s Center on Extremism noted 100 right-wing extremists running for office in the 2022 elections, with many of the candidates also holding ties to conspiratorial, fringe ideologies and groups.

While political groups have long sought and obtained influence over American politicians, the question arises as to why groups such as AWAKE seem to exert more power even as they become more radical.
Dr. Jurisson believes AWAKE has formed from a fear of belonging.
“We have people who are dealing from a sense of profound fear because they no longer see a place for themselves in American society,” Dr. Jurisson said. “That perception can lead them to use strategies and endorse claims that do not follow democratic norms, and they think that they’re justified in doing so because they have no other options.”

These national election issues should be critical to students, too

Abortion

by Amy Ren

When the Supreme Court decided the Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case in June, activists across the country either celebrated the decision or mobilized for a fight.
At the center of the debate remains the question: “Does a person’s right to bodily autonomy and privacy trump a fetus’s right to life?”
The repeal of Roe v. Wade leaves the restriction or expansion of abortion rights solely to state lawmakers. Legislatures can also make “shield laws” to protect providers prescribing abortion pills across state lines.
Through telemedicine visits, where patients call or meet a doctor virtually and get a prescription mailed to them, activist groups like the Mexico-based Las Libras help people get abortions in states where the procedure is now banned.
Some doctors in the United States are also planning to dispense pills this way, but without shield laws they risk getting arrested, sued and losing their medical licenses.
Generation Z is most affected by the repeal of abortion protection, as they will grow up, begin their careers and possibly start families during a time where their choice to have a child can be state-mandated.
On the ballot this year are governors, U.S. senators and representatives, but also state Supreme Court justices and legislators, who along with county and judicial positions, can influence or pass state-specific “shield laws” or restrict abortion access.
In the upcoming election, voters must understand that who they vote for will impact abortion access. Whatever the outcome of the elections, Generation Z will feel the effects for years.

Affirmative Action

by Zara Siddique

On Oct. 31, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in two cases pertaining to affirmative action, a policy hoping to correct past discriminations against individuals in minority groups. Students for Fair Admission, a group of anti-affirmative action students, brought cases against Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill alleging the universities discriminated against Asian and white students, are guilty of having predetermined racial goals and are basing admissions on this. These students seek to bar colleges from taking race into consideration and to find a different way to preserve diversity in schools.
This would cause most schools in the United States to fundamentally change how they admit potential students. Harvard’s president said, “Considering race as one factor among many in admissions decisions produces a more diverse student body which strengthens the learning environment for all.” He promised to defend the school’s admission process.
Affirmative action has protected the rights of minorities since President John F. Kennedy first referenced it in 1961. It is displayed as a crucial criteria for colleges to take into consideration, but as the percentages colleges boast become more prevalent, students worry how affirmative action impacts their college admission.
The Supreme Court’s verdict has the potential to fundamentally change the admissions process at all universities and possibly reduce diversity. As students reach the voting age, they are also entering college and universities; these cases have the potential to completely change the admissions process for all future college applicants.

Climate Change

by Taariq Ahmed

Of the thousands of global protestors that recently took to the streets to demand climate change action, hundreds were youth. Climate change is especially an issue of concern for Generation Z because of the likelihood they will experience its extremely severe impacts in the future. In addition to that burden, Gen Z is constantly reminded of the difficult job ahead — discovering an effective and sustainable solution.
The importance young people give toward climate change has been displayed within the Lab community several times: students attended the Chicago Global Climate strike in 2019, the community participated in a climate change panel in 2020 and the science department spread awareness about climate change through an official statement in 2021.
A steady rate of misinformation, skepticism, economic concerns and political polarization are emerging as the main obstacles toward catalyzing any major policies. Still, as warnings from scientific experts continue to increase rapidly, so do worldwide temperatures and the intensity of natural disasters. For many members of Gen Z, such as activist Greta Thunberg, these indicators demonstrate that the harsh realities of climate change cannot be ignored, especially by powerful governmental figures that have the ability to make substantial differences.
In light of 2022 events such as the Supreme Court’s decision in West Virginia v. EPA and the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, the government’s influence over climate change policy is clearer than ever. In this election, students and voters must choose politicians who will address climate change as if the world itself is at stake — because it is.

Gun Control

by Victoria Washington

At the end of the summer, students returned to classes with the intention of furthering their studies and socializing, but for many schools across the United States, that process has been interrupted by school shootings and gun violence. According to USA Today, last year’s academic year saw more gun violence in schools than in the past decade.
While school shootings and gun violence are not new issues, the recent spike should encourage Gen Z voters to re-evaluate gun regulation policies.
According to data compiled by RAND Corporation, most Americans agree that the increase of gun violence and gun related fatalities is unacceptable, regardless of their stance on gun-related policies. F
or those passionate about gun rights, the current challenge lies in the outcomes of suggested policies.
Illinois legislation prohibits, with some exceptions, the possession of a firearm, stun gun or taser within 1,000 feet of school property.
While school shootings occur on a relelivelty infrequent basis, according to the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, they often have the most detrimental impact on a school community.
The ICJIA attributes most school shootings to issues surrounding the school climate, bullying and in-school violence. The organization asserts the need for sufficient mental health resources and school committee work to reduce the effects of targeted bullying and harassment.
In the upcoming election, everyone should be aware of candidates’ ideas and potential policies surrounding gun regulation and how they plan to reduce firearm related fatalities in the future.

Inflation

by Peter Cox

Inflation is currently at about 8%, the highest it has been since the early 1980s. This increases prices, resulting in money effectively being worth less. Inflation is painful for the average American, especially young people, because gas and food, two of the biggest monthly expenses for teens, are particularly prone to price fluctuations.
The necessary measures the government will take to lower inflation will have consequences which will make life harder for consumers.
The main focus in United States’ political discourse on this issue has been about the effects of the Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan. The program, enacted in March 2021, introduced $1.7 trillion of government spending into the American economy. While the law contributed to inflation, other factors also led to the current inflation: increased consumer spending coming out of lockdowns, supply chain issues from lingering pandemic disruptions, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The normal tool governments use to deal with inflation is increasing interest rates. The Federal Reserve has already done this several times this year, and it likely will again. While increasing interest rates does decrease inflation, it makes it harder to buy things. This does not solve the issue of inflation in the short-term.
While this is likely the most relevant issue affecting teens, it is also influenced the least by the election. The main political takeaway is that the continued economic downturn is going to hurt the Democratic Party’s chances in the elections. Despite this, a Republican victory won’t see a significant change in how the government is dealing with this issue.

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