By Kaya Siig

I’m 17 — and apparently, I don’t know anything.

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While I may be young, I have recognized one true pattern: Knowledge is power, knowledge is undeniable, and knowledge is yours. As my U.S. Government teacher, Mrs. Jurosky, often says, “What you don’t know is often more destructive than what you do.” 

So, what do any of us know? 

We currently live in a world of chaos — lost in separation, divided by opinions. Our society is plagued with millions of issues, but the deepest flaw lies in our thinking. We are infected with misinformation and an insurmountable shortage of cultural learning. 

I’m simply 17 years old, with a lack of experience, yet I feel I know more than my elders. Polarization currently poisons the very land we stand on, and any sense of common ground has now eroded. Our beliefs, now stronger than ever, have seemingly split us, dripping with immaturity and spooling distorted news reports.  

I may be young, but I call for action. I request a change in our thinking, not just for our sake but for prosperity in the future. This revolution falls back into education; we are losing the historical teachings to subjects of STEM. According to an article published by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2017, during the years between 2006 and 2015, bachelor’s degrees in STEM increased from 22% to 30%, while “all other fields experienced a decrease.” If we truly hope to prevent history from repeating, we must continue to learn the past, and not lose the essential teachings offered by humanities courses. 

As Winston Churchill once said, “Those that fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat.” And I’m afraid we are slowly approaching that fate — 31 states are now no longer required to teach about the Holocaust, and with this new rise of antisemitism we are in desperate need of just that. In a recent article by Reuters, author Kanishika Singh highlights a “388% rise in antisemitic incidents in the US since Oct. 7.” The Anti-Defamation League shares preliminary data showing 312 reported incidents, with about 180 directly linked to the Israel-Hamas conflict. 

But how are students, or even adults, to truly know the level of harm they cause without full comprehension of past occurrences, and the history behind each word and symbol they seem to use so freely. If we genuinely aspire for peace, we must acquire understanding. As the Missouri Humanities department puts it, “While science and math may offer us concrete answers to questions, the humanities reveal more nuanced conclusions and interpretations because the study of society requires not just critical thinking but also considering more than one side of a story.” 

The very lessons of worldly matters and differing cultures seem to stop once you leave a high school or college campus. And the most fundamental lessons of empathy and kindness (the ability to see two sides) have been left in the elementary school classrooms, and completely abandoned on a governmental level. We have fallen victim to tactics of intimidation, name calling, and childish acts, strategies which only divide us more and prove once again that we have drifted from the humane methods that once kept us together. 

It’s utterly disheartening to watch my so-called political leaders act like children, and the adults surrounding me defy one another with constant disagreements. If my peers and I are lectured on the importance of getting along and treating each other equally, why is it so difficult for them to do the same? Is age what breaks us? Or is it the constant influx of bias from the news and groups with far too much power at their fingertips? These issues of gender inequality, racism, and antagonistic beliefs are not innate, they are learned. We foster the minds of the youth so we can mold the future. Let’s build the next generation on ideas of love, not hate; community, not separation. Let’s come together on knowledge. 

Yes, I may only be 17, and I might not know anything — but I can see this.

I see the change we are so desperately in need of, and I know that proper education and true understanding will get us there. I implore everyone to take it upon themselves to learn as much history, as much psychology, as much of everything as they can. 

For true understanding lies in what you learn, bias and opinions fall in what you don’t, and action comes from what you know. 

~ Kaya Siig is a senior and class president at North Tahoe High School. Having grown up in the mountains of Tahoe, she enjoys many sports, but her true loves are running and track and field, with a focus on pole vault and mid-distance. In her free time she enjoys skiing and being a Mighty Mites coach, as well as climbing and writing poetry and prose. She hopes
to carry this hobby into college,
where she plans to study law and political science and pursue athletic competition.
 

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