Solomon Katz: Democracy

Gabby Kepnes, Staff Writer

Solomon Katz (12) gained inspiration for his Independent Study Project, regarding democracy, at a youth movement summer camp. Ever since then, Katz has been looking for ways to effectively enact noticeable change.

Katz organized a group of his friends to attend his first protest: the People’s Climate March of 2014, he said. The protest was an effort to pressure President Obama to ratify the Paris Accords, he said.

“From that experience I felt proud of myself, but as the years progressed and things didn’t change, I realized that I had been fooling myself into believing that I had done something that actually affected change,” he said. “It was something I wanted to believe.”

“I realized that if I looked at the concrete results of what I had done or what the protest had done as a whole, it wasn’t the kind of input output ratio I had hoped for,” he said.

Katz is focusing his project on specific ways to enact change. “I looked at direct democracy where people can vote on an amendment without having to bypass it by congress, just as long as they get enough signatures,” he said.

Katz also studies the psychology of voters and politicians to analyze the thought processes behind voting, he said.

“[Katz’s Study has] evolved over time to be a topic that is not simply about politics but really about the way in which we psychologically have to deal with political systems and ideologies,” Director of Independent Study Avram Schlesinger said.

Katz began his project by exploring how politics and political movements are correlated.

“From the papers I was reading, I realized that a huge theme was the psychology of democracy,” he said. This led Katz to research more psychology related papers, veering his study more towards political psychology, a less explored field, rather than just politics, he said.

“For the first presentation, I discussed the role of money in politics and talked about how money inhibits change and people want change,” he said. “People of money are the only ones who can affect change.”

During the presentation, he also explained the differences between politics and political movements, he said.

For his next presentation, Katz dove into the psychological aspect as he talked about the concept of psychological phenomena and how it affects politics, he said.

“I took previous radical examples of politics like World War II and the Nazi Party,” he said. “I wanted [my classmates] to know that psychological principles permeate everything.”

Another student in Katz’s Independent Study, William Golub (12), learned a lot about how change actually happens and the different approaches one can take to enact it, he said.

“I think that a lot of people have the mindset that I had where they go to a protest that advocates this thing, thus they are advocating for that thing,” he said. “That’s not really how it works.”

“These protests are often asking a politician to do the right thing and hoping that they do,” Katz said.

Katz believes that sometimes protests do not always affect change, he said. 

“I realized the discrepancy between how people think change is affected and how it’s actually affected,” he said.