On his last day in office in September 1796, George Washington warned the country of the dangers of political parties, cautioning that political parties were “…likely…to become potent engines…to subvert the power of the people…destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.” Washington would surely be horrified by the American political landscape today, one wherein the two major parties play a divisive role. With the introduction of cable news in the 1990s, the media has ballooned from just a few networks to a 24-hour news cycle: newspapers, radio, television and magazines, and social media. In turn, consumers have the ability to find news that has been curated specifically to support a singular point of view: Democrats turn to CNN and MSNBC, and Republicans turn to Fox. There are also more options such as Newsmax and OANN, both of which disseminate hardline conservative viewpoints.
Students in the Byram Hills High School Global Scholars Program have been investigating ways to take action to make a difference on an issue of their choosing. Students Jacob Levy and Gina Schiliro have been motivated to educate New York residents on the dangers of political polarization, the divergence of political attitudes to ideological extremes, as families and friends have been torn apart due to the spread of misinformation. These students followed a design thinking process as they interviewed stakeholders, researched evidence, identified a problem area, and designed an action plan to address the problem.
The students have taken action by creating a Public Service Announcement to educate other students on the importance of examining multiple news sources and to analyze the point of view of the news sources they watch. They have also created an Instagram to spread their message (@fight_the_divide). The views of Americans today have become increasingly more polarized as it has become harder to hold conversations with family and friends with political views that differ from your own. This issue has been partly blamed on the various media sources such as newspapers, Twitter, televised news, social media, and so much more because of the misinformation or bias of each claim that they make. According to the Pew Research Center, nearly 80% of Americans have few or no friends at all who belong to an opposing party. To prevent the percentage from increasing, we must take action, such as promoting and sharing this PSA. Jacob and Gina plan to promote their PSA to multiple media outlets.
The political divide has become increasingly more prevalent in today’s society due to the influx of mass media through varied platforms that cater to a certain political bias. Under the Reagan administration, the Fairness Doctrine was removed through President Reagan’s implementation of the Federal Communications Commission. The Fairness Doctrine required all media to allow equal time for opposing views when not reporting straight news. The removal of this act is a major reason for the secularization of media sources today. These sources not only express their opinions on factual news now, but some have spread false information. This results in an increasing divide between the two political parties, ultimately dividing our nation. The PSA Jake and Gina created promotes the knowledge of news bias by understanding the facts and then observing the opinions of both sides. This allows for civil discussion no matter which party you belong since you both have been educated about the facts. For our country to heal, Americans need to learn to work together instead of against each other. This PSA offers a solution!