Long: Our opinions as valid as any others


A crowd gathers to listen to a speaker on Regents Day, at the State capitol in Des Moines.

Craig Long

Why are we not taken seriously? Why, as college students, does no one listen to our opinion? I don’t understand it. It seems as though everyone, from parents to government officials, seem to be content to pat us on the head and send us on our way, as though we are 5-year-olds trying to voice an opinion on organic chemistry.

Take, for example, the dismissal given by state Sen. Shawn Hamerlinck to student leaders from the three state institutions last June, telling students to “go home.” Or the companion comments given by both him and state Sen. Steve Kettering, which both alluded to the students being “paraded” in front of the Iowa Senate as though they were puppets, discrediting on principle anything the students said.

Why? In an argument with my mother, she said I’d understand once I got “into the real world.” That is especially insulting. We, as college students, often work one or two jobs to cover bills, rent, gas and other expenses. Though it may not be a full-time, 9-to-5 job, if you’re working 25 hours per week and have 15 credits, that’s equivalent to the 40 hours full-time employees work. That’s not counting all the outside time we’re expected to put in (for 15 credits, the recommended amount would be 30 to 45 additional hours/week). We put in more hours with a more diverse set of requirements than most people do in the working world.

People who automatically discount our views seem to think that because we are still in the education system, we don’t possess the knowledge to form a valid opinion. But when you think about it logically, we college students are as educated, if not more, than most people in the United States. According to statistics from the Census Bureau, only 55 percent of Americans age 25 or better have had some college or better. Only 30 percent have attained an associate’s degree (two years of study), a bachelor’s degree or better.

Although we may not be as long in the tooth as the majority of the general public simply by completing a semester at college, we’ve had more education than 45 percent of America. While those who went from high school directly into the working world have had more experience in the “real world,” that doesn’t mean those experiences are more valid when it comes to public issues.

Most of those experiences, while they have directly and drastically impacted these individuals’ lives, don’t look at the big picture. They are limited experiences, controlled to a specific set of circumstances, that may not hold true when applied to major public issues. The specific economics of a household are entirely different from the economics of the public. If you apply household economics to the economy, the decisions you make could turn out to be disastrous.

Perhaps most college students don’t have kids yet or have to make decisions on health care, but we still work hard to educate ourselves and prepare ourselves to make decisions in the working world. For example, we can look ahead at our life plans and see that the amount of debt we face could be crippling; simply because we haven’t started paying it with a “real” job doesn’t mean we can’t form an opinion on the subject.

I’m not trying to say that only those with some college experience should be allowed to speak on public issues. The way our system is designed, high school gives more than enough education to be informed enough to form valid opinions. Everyone has every right to voice opinions on subject that will affect them as well, regardless of their educational level.

Ultimately, we must help ourselves. We’re a group of people who are (fairly or not) branded as being more concerned with “Jersey Shore” and drinking and that taints elders’ views of us and our knowledge. To make our voice heard and our opinion count, we must start by making an effort to keep up to date on current events and express our opinions in a responsible, informed way. If we do that, we’ll finally see what we have to say taken seriously, to everyone’s benefit.