BY ANASTASIA ZOLOTOVA
Politics: perhaps one of the most dreaded words in the English language, which can incur instant discomfort and tension within an entire population. But it can also instigate healthy discussion about controversial topics, especially in a school such as Carmel High, where students’ views vary widely across the traditional liberal and conservative spectrum.
But unless students spend their free time in discussion with their friends at the Bagel Bakery about the current impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump or any other news events, political discussion simply will not occur.
This is where classes like AP Government and Politics, to give an example, come in. Bill Schrier, who teaches two sections of AP GoPo, a history class offered to seniors, holds frequent Socratic seminars in which students are free to discuss current events with one another.
Classes like AP GoPo take traditional current events assignments, in which worksheets are frantically filled out during a passing period and never looked at again, to the next level. It’s especially invaluable in that it helps model civility and tolerance towards one another among students. However, political discussion can and should occur in other courses available to underclassmen as well, even beyond history classes.
Thomas Dooner, a chemistry and biology teacher, is one good example: after Greta Thurnberg, a teenage climate change activist who’s become an inspiration for climate strikes worldwide, gave a powerful speech to the United Nations, Dooner sat down each of his freshman, sophomore and senior chemistry and biology sections to give us the rundown and explain, as a science teacher, what he agreed with and what he didn’t.
Climate change is relevant to Dooner’s classes, so he made time in his lesson plans to discuss it with his students. And although not everyone agreed with all the points he made, it revealed polar opposite views on climate change among my classmates and so opened up room for frank discussion. Such discussions, hopefully, are a first step towards being able to better hear and educate each other on critical issues.
Schrier’s and Dooner’s contributions to student awareness of current events illustrate how open and real discussions can be effectively facilitated in schools. Both helped kickstart real conversations in which both sides of a debate are voiced and opinions have the chance to evolve and change. Without that, students may go to college and into the real world with no experience in how to behave with people who don’t share their political views.
In fact, this has already been displayed by students who post crass, untasteful images or messages on social media like “Trump 2020: Make Liberals Cry Again,” mirroring the increasing divisiveness within our Congress in Washington D.C.
Or, perhaps worse yet, students have no opinion at all. Voters or soon-to-be voters of our generation may not even vote, like many millennials did in the 2016 presidential election. Their turnout at the polls was at only 50 percent as reported by NPR, because they didn’t care about the outcome of the election, they didn’t like any of the candidates or they thought politics were “boring.”
If open and friendly discussion occurs among our generation of soon-to-be voters within a moderated environment like a classroom, in a course or even a club that’s accessible to all and where students aren’t afraid to voice their opinions, then perhaps we can help to nip the growing indifference to politics and the divide between parties at the bud.