Progression or regression?


Yumnah Shoaib

Students actively participate in Mr. Boerem’s AP Government and Politics class, which is starting a new unit on the American political system. They are currently learning about the different political parties, court cases, and American government. The students are also given opportunities to share their opinions and talk amongst their peers about civil issues.

Almost every generation has lived through depressions, recessions, tragedies, uprisings of amazing artists, and new discoveries of the world. While this may make each generation a special one, none are quite as unique as Generation Z. Generation Z, commonly known as zoomers, is the age demographic succeeding Millennials and preceding Generation Alpha. The birth years of 1997 – 2012 are used as a timeline for Gen Z.

What makes this generation so different from others is the myriad of influential events they lived through, or lived the aftermath of. Events like the 9/11 attacks, the first black president inaugurated into office, COVID-19, back-to-back protests of Black Lives Matter, Palestinian Rights, women’s rights, LGTBQ+, and Capitol Hill Protest. While many generations lived through these events simultaneously, Generation Z took over the social world in advocating for/against the campaigns, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a survey conducted in Mr. Kevin Boerem’s Advanced Placement Government and Politics class, in addition through social media, 64.4% of students (out of the 26) reported that they became more interested, or more informed about social issues during the pandemic.

As COVID-19 has reshaped the country’s social, political, and economic landscape, many habitants of Generation Z have become equipped with the resources to advocate for change, even from the comfort of their beds. Many zoomers took to apps like TikTok and created accounts teaching others the importance of voting, and politics. Some used Instagram to share information and resources regarding elections, protests, and global issues. In regard to students’ participation in politics post pandemics Boerem said, “I feel like there has not been a significant change pre/post-pandemic when it comes to student participation or knowledge about politics and social issues. In my experience, there is a small but vocal minority of students who are passionate about politics and are engaged in social issues, while the majority of students are either unaware or unengaged. There are some students who are uncomfortable sharing or expressing their opinions, either because they are shy, they are not confident in their beliefs or they feel that their beliefs are unpopular.” 84.6% of students in this same class reported that they are interested in politics.

Researchers say that this generation stopped the “red wave” or conservative wave from forming during the 2020 presidential elections. The early numbers from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE) suggested that 27% of people between the ages of 18 and 29 cast ballots on November 8 of last year, the second-highest youth midterms turnout in 30 years. In the same survey conducted in Boerems class, 92.3% reported that they want/plan to vote.

Zoomers actively participated in these different protests, digitally and physically. Many followed the past two presidential elections, and overall all zoomers have become increasingly educated about social issues. 53.9% of Royal students reported that they were involved in the Black Lives Matter protests. Additionally, 57.7% of students reported that they are interested in protests and 23.1% said that they are both interested, and have been involved in one.

As seen on Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram many zoomers are advocating for civil rights, but there is a large portion opposed to this new change. Senior Shya Samadani said, “I think Gen Z is powerful but I do think when it comes to things political people often get close-minded when others try to voice themself. Though you might not agree with someone you have to be mature enough to just listen and I really don’t think some people are there. The thing about this generation is that we have normalized being ourselves but to a certain extent, I’ve noticed people tend to close parts of themselves because some people get so quick to judge. So I think we have made changes but I also think we have made things more sensitive than they should be.” 96.2% of students reported that they agree that this generation is open-minded, and 100% reported that they think it is important to advocate for rights. 57.7% of our students agreed with the idea that Gen Z is on the way to making change, and 23.1% have stated that there have already been changes made.

Other students commented on the poll. Junior Cynthia Ha said, “I believe that coming from a young individual who was been through so much through these past couple of years, it’s fair to say that the basis of social reform comes from the people themselves. I think that our society (Gen Z) is so much more open to advocacy than our past generations and I truly believe that the reason for it is because of the “destigmatization” of previously taboo ideals/topics. This “newfound” sense of advocacy is extremely beneficial for the people within our society, whether they may agree with the topics or not. Because in the end, it gets people talking which allows for further discussion and lets people fully see the whole side of the conversation. And I really believe that Gen Z will be able to make a change within the world with these ideals because of how open we are to new things.”

Senior Valerie Maina said, “Our generation sees political issues as trends. So many people blindly participate in surface-level activism (i.e. #BlackoutTuesday) and genuinely believe they have done enough. Previous generations went through so much trauma for minimal change, with even less support. We could do the same with less effort, but the lack of motivation and consistency we have is unsettling. No one is aware of what it actually takes to implement true change which is exactly what will set us back in the future.”

Senior Makenzie Tabora said, “Every generation will include outliers of those who aren’t willing to push for policy and change, though it is evident that Gen Z has the true qualities of a resilient fighter. Gen Z deeply cares about others, we are pragmatic and financially minded, and we value important qualities such as authenticity, nonhierarchical leadership, and diversity. Most importantly we are also big advocates for mental health considering we all face our own difficult battles every day.”

We have seen the direct impact of the rise of progression on our campus through the various clubs regarding diversity, inclusion, and adaptation. These clubs include Student Equity Committee, South East Asian Cultural Club, South Asian Cultural Club, Chnge4women, Pride Club, Debate Club, and Model UN. These clubs, all run by students, are devoted to the conversation of inclusion or politics, but overall promote the idea of educating oneself about the new world and the different ideas that surround us. It is imperative that this generation stands for their beliefs, as long as they are positive ones that will help their community or the world.