Last April, CPR launched its first national essay competition where high school students faced the short but difficult question: What is a student's role in politics? We were extremely impressed with the quality of the answers, and hope that these essays sparked further discussion about democratic participation amongst both our contributors and the Columbia student population.
This year, we sought to refine that question slightly to make it applicable to today's politics.
Like many other schools, Columbia University has a history of protests and student activism. From the famous student interventions in the '60s to more recent actions concerning the Trump administration, the premise that persists is the knowledge that students should have a role in politics. But should the nature of that role ever change?
A recent op-ed on political tone and its resulting tensions in the New York Times pointed out that political squabbling across America has caused actual policymaking to ground to a halt. An attempt to find common ground over the "Dreamers" resulted in a shutdown of the federal government, accusations of racism and anti-patriotism hurled at each other, and ultimately no substantive policy change. This polarization in politics isn't a phenomenon unique to the US - divisions in public opinion can be seen in the press surrounding Brexit, the French elections, and even laws surrounding secularism in India.
In such politically divisive environments, do protests continue to be the most effective tool for students to provoke political response? Or should the place of students in politics evolve?
We invite you to respond to our question in 500-800 words. We are opening the contest to students attending high school (grades 9–12) both in the United States and overseas, with the aim of having students think critically about their place in any political system. The contest is open from March 27th to April 15th 2018. In late May, we will publish the three best essays on our website.
You can hand in your submissions at the following link: https://goo.gl/forms/Ef0GmKyquV2b4fKt1
Please note that the Columbia Political Review is an undergraduate student group at Columbia University; it in no way represents the university.