Are students uninterested or uninformed?

Ryerson students are politically uninformed, at least according to a Rebel Media video.

Founded last February by conservative pundit and former Sun News host Ezra Levant, Rebel is an online news outlet. They sent two correspondents to campus last week. They pulled students aside on Gould Street and asked them various questions related to Canadian politics and history.

The result was a bit embarrassing. Most of the students who answered on camera were, admittedly, uninformed: they didn’t know what was happening this Oct. 19 (a federal election), couldn’t name Canada’s year of confederation (1867), and some didn’t even know the name of our first prime minister (Sir John A. Macdonald).

Yes, young people can be disengaged. But pitting this as plain ignorance is an overly simplistic explanation. It’s no wonder students are uninformed. We’ve never been a target demographic for politicians. The upcoming election is, unfortunately, no exception to this longstanding and exhausting trend.
Many of the parties’ campaign pledges have shown that students just aren’t on their radar.

Across the board, promises so far tend to be targeted to the “middle class,” families or retirees. These aren’t exactly student demographics.

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Jason&Matt went to Ryerson to quiz students on Canadian history. (Courtesy of Rebel Media / YouTube)

One of the Conservative party’s main platform points is income-splitting, a tax break for families with two working adults. This initiative would be useless for most (unmarried) students.

The NDP promises to deliver “good middle-class jobs” for Canadians. But what about student jobs? Of the four main parties, all, including the NDP, have some sort of platform point related to creating jobs for young people. But these promises aren’t promoted as heavily as initiatives such as income splitting, which Conservative leader Stephen Harper held a press conference earlier this year to announce, or the promise for “middle-class jobs,” displayed front and centre on the NDP’s website.

Beyond jobs, there are more student-related issues that need to be addressed.

A recent article in Vice pointed out that the issue of student debt has been notably absent during the campaign. This comes at a time when more and more students across the country are sinking into debt.

Two weeks ago, Green leader Elizabeth May announced a dramatic promise: to completely eliminate tuition for Canadian post-secondary students by 2020.
Whether this promise is realistic or not, it’s refreshing to see a party with at least one student issue on its radar.

It would be silly to pretend that some students aren’t ignorant about Canadian politics.

The Rebel TV segment was eye-opening, and should make Ryerson students pause and reflect on how politically engaged they really are. It’s unfair, however, to dismiss students as apathetic and leave it at that. Instead of quizzing Ryerson students on their political knowledge, perhaps the Rebel correspondents should have asked them why they weren’t following the election campaign.

The answer may not have been a lack of interest. Instead, it may have been that the top issues just aren’t relevant to their day-to-day lives.
Being repeatedly overlooked can be exhausting, and sometimes, it’s easier to just look the other way.

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