Credit: Rachel Franklin Photography/Draw the Lines PA
One of the things we heard in our listener survey (which there’s still time to take, by the way) is that we should have more young people on the show as guests. It was a great suggestion and, after having this conversation, we’re so glad to have received it.
Joining us this week is Kyle Hynes, a junior at State College Area High School and a true advocate for democracy. He is the statewide champion in the youth division of the Draw the Lines PA mapping competition and winner of the Future Leader in Social Studies from the Pennsylvania Council for the Social Studies.
Kyle is an expert on the ins and outs of gerrymandering, but he also has interesting perspectives impeachment, political engagement among his peers, and the generational divide in American politics.
We’ve had a lot of guests tell us that they put hope in Generation Z to solve some of the challenges we face. If Kyle is any indication, that hope is in the right place.Listener Survey
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I’ve always been really interested in math. I’ve also been interested in politics for quite a while, and so I’m really interested in the areas where they intersect, where math and politics come together. I feel like gerrymandering is one of those places. Redistricting is a logistical puzzle and you try to put it together. So I’ve always thought this is really interesting, and then when I saw that there was a competition, you can draw your own map, see if you can do it better. I was like, “I want to try that.”[3:40] Where does your interest in politics come from?
Our family’s really politically engaged, and my political interest kind of sparked during the 2016 primaries, where it seemed almost, especially on the Republican side, just because there were more candidates, it seemed almost like a giant game. It’s like the Hunger Games, who can get to the cornucopia first? And it was like, “Is this really how we choose our politicians? Really?” And so that kind of sparked an interest for me, and then it’s kind of carried through ever since.[6:00] What do your friends think about your involvement in politics?
Some of my friends are interested in politics, all have a lower tolerance for politics than I do. But yeah, so sometimes there’s the reaction of, “Oh Kyle, just shut up about the damn politics.” But often sometimes they are interested in politics and stuff like that.
On the one hand, there’s some ambivalence. People think Republicans and Democrats are the same and everyone is corrupt and in it for their own ends. But there’s also a bunch of people, I would say a majority even, among kids my own age who actually do care, and who are actually interested in finding solutions to problems. And I feel like to a certain extent it’s less tribal, especially among high schoolers and young adults. The tribal mentality really isn’t there.[8:36] What’s been your experience with civics education?
I took a civics class in eighth grade, which was pretty good. And then the only thing after that is the AP government class in 12th grade, so both those classes have certainly played a role. I feel like another big contributor to my civics education, my parents are both really politically minded, civically minded, and they both raised me from an early age to care about this stuff.[10:42] What was your process for creating the district map for Draw the Lines PA?
I had certainly seen a lot of alternate Pennsylvania congressional maps that people had drawn saying, “Hey, I can do this better than the politicians in Harrisburg.” And so I feel like I drew some from a lot of those different maps, and different attitudes towards districting. And I feel like I also kind of pulled on my math background, because I wanted to create as many districts that were competitive, for both sides, as possible, and I feel like at some point that was just a pure puzzle. It was just, how do I cobble the precincts together in such a way that you get as many 50/50 districts as you can?
I wanted to use competitive districts, because in my perfect world, if we had an electoral system of my choice, it would be a proportional representation system, so that everyone could actually have a say in choosing the government. But obviously this competition didn’t allow for that, you drew the districts. And so I felt like I wanted to draw a map that gave every single voter as much say as physically possible[14:20] People often put faith in younger generations to fix what’s broken in politics. Are you aware of that pressure and how do you feel about it?
Yeah, sometimes. I feel like the youth in any generation are always the least jaded. As people go through life, they often become more and more and more jaded. But I feel like a lot of the issues that have been prevalent in the past, and even today, there is, like I certainly hope that our generation or generations above us can take care of the issues, because somebody’s got to. So I feel like on the one hand, it’s a little bit of pressure like, “We’re going to give it to the youth, see what they can do with it.” But on the other hand, I think in the future, our generation will end up taking the reins of power, and I feel like, I hope that we can do good things with them.[15:40] What’s your biggest “OK Boomer” moment when it comes to politics?
I feel like it’s tough to answer the question because like a lot of things, even though like almost everything, there are a lot of people in that, a lot of Boomers who agree with what I think, and a lot who don’t. And a lot of people who have been doing things to advance what we need to do in a bunch of these different categories, and a bunch who don’t.
But I feel like of all of the issues that, I feel like older generations, like the one currently in power now in DC has failed in, and this is not a dispersion on any generation as a whole, but just the part of it that is currently in power, is climate change, because I feel like they’ve had a long time, and by they, I mean the caucuses in Washington, a long time to deal with this, and it hasn’t been dealt with. And so I feel like that’s something that’s going to end up being passed down to our generation, which we’re going to have to deal with.[25:53] What does democracy mean to you?
People are only actually exercising democracy when they’re actually making their voices heard. I feel like it goes beyond voting. Sure, the right to vote is a key part of democracy and you can’t have democracy without it, but there’s the right to meet with your representatives. There’s the right to free speech. The right to a free press. And all of these things I feel like are so key to democracy. It’s like it is rule of the people, by the people, but it’s also rule of the people, rule for the people.
So having a system where you can actually talk about what you want to talk about, you can make your voice heard, you can vote in situation where every single person has the same key right to vote, which is really fundamental, and where you don’t have certain people blocking other people’s right to vote or right to vote meaningfully.
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