Vast seas of information, slanted news networks and compulsive social media compete for the attention of students all across America, yet there is very little stress put on the education of our youth with regard to current world issues.
Any one of the 5,412 undergraduate students at APU could tell me about the promiscuous behavior of the VMAs, but blank stares and vacant faces are the norm when kids are asked about the complexities of the Syrian conflict, the political unrest of Egypt and the vilification of gays through Putin’s “anti-propaganda” law.
An argument may arise that even if students do keep themselves current on these issues, there’s nothing they can do about it, therefore making their self-education obsolete. There is a dangerous theme woven deep into this kind of thinking, as it suggests that there is no reason to be informed on the decisions our government is making, or the implications of its actions.
“The problem is that average Americans do not allow world events to impact them, at least consciously,” global studies professor Paul Hertig said. “And if the world is having an impact on people who do not realize it, then that is a dangerous kind of passivity.”
Hertig, who has a doctorate and master’s degree in theological studies, said we are all connected — more than we realize.
“The world’s response to the deadly chemical weapons deployed in Syria, for instance, sets in motion a whole series of counter-responses by nations and individuals around the world,” he said.
Hertig brings up a vital point in saying that every action that takes place throughout the world has an immediate or eventual ripple effect that reaches not only every American family, but also families worldwide.
“Rather than just watch these events unfold, we can be involved in shaping them: first of all, by awareness, second by understanding, third by communicating and fourth by taking action,” Hertig said.
News sources in the U.S. were initially created to act as a direct connection between the people and their elected leaders. They were originally to keep those in power accountable, and to inform the masses with raw, genuine facts.
When individuals claim that hard news is less important if they cannot directly change a situation, they are essentially silencing their own voice in crucial matters. A student’s apathy then sends a personal message to individuals outside the United States that foreign trials and tribulations mean less than a suggestively utilized foam finger.
“The only downside of being informed is the tendency to think that ‘the answer is simple’ to many of the world’s leading problems,” senior political science major Justin Hyer said. “We, as average citizens, are not privy to inside information or backroom discussions.”
However, such realization of intricate complexities should never be a deterrent for students. There was never a promise from our Creator that life would be clean and easy. We must take one side of an argument into account, while keeping the opposing side close at hand for balance.
“Anyone can have an opinion and anyone can start a blog,” Hyer said. “It therefore becomes important to seek multiple sources, understand bias and critically analyze news. I think it is really important to formulate your own set of values and morals, and establish principles you hold to be true.”
Our responsibility here at APU is even greater; those of us who consider ourselves Christians are called by our God “to look after orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27 NIV). How can we pick and choose which orphans and widows for whom to care? How can we embrace people we know nothing about and don’t value enough to understand?
In order to truly care for another human being, there must be a mutual understanding, an understanding that starts with education. To sit idly by and pretend as though God will wash away all the struggles and pressingly controversial issues is not only juvenile, but an insult to your own intelligence.
Stand up. Understand that these bombs are being dropped on flesh and blood, children of Christ just like your family and my family. If our government launches guided missiles into Syria, there should be an impressive number of citizens questioning, if not condemning, this choice of action.
Karl Barth, a prominent theologian and force of rebellion against the oppressive reign of Hitler, spoke a beautiful piece of truth when he called for Christians to “read the Bible in one hand, and the newspaper in the other.”