The Classroom Electorate

Alli Milne, Op/Ed Editor

It’s the day when everything changes. Kids you didn’t think knew how to speak suddenly turn on their neighbors. Friendships are temporarily ravaged in less than fifteen minutes. Teachers you thought were on your side are suddenly the antagonists. It’s the day political debate opens up in class.

What starts as a simple opinion about welfare at the opening of class will suddenly turn into a full scale debate. People will stop raising their hands, they’ll completely forget their kindergarten “inside voices” and, even more devastating, it’s as though they’ve left their logic at the door. When debate opens up in class, it’s like everyone has jumped at the opportunity to make their inner thoughts of the last half of a decade into an outer opinion. The problem becomes when these opinions are no longer the next generation’s attempt at rescuing our society, but an attempt to showboat how wonderful you think your political thoughts are.

If you’re going to participate in a classroom political debate, you should at least have logical reasons behind what you’re going to say. If you think that something is a great idea, and someone asks a few casual questions about it, be prepared to answer those like a civilized being. If all you’re going to do is throw a hissy fit and yell out “I’m right because my idea is right,” then maybe it’s best if you sit this one out until you can come up with some real answers to the questions. Think about the consequences. A short term fix is only a real fix if it doesn’t end in drastically worse long-term consequences. While your short term fix seems good to the people who don’t know any better, you only sound unintelligent to the people who do.

People also need to consider the feelings of other people. If all you have to say in a debate about Affirmative Action is several racial comments and slurs, then maybe you ought to keep them to yourself. If the only reason you’re heated up is because you’ve been screwed over and this is going to stop being about the policies and start being about you, then it’s probably best if you swallow your egotism for two seconds and let somebody else take a turn.

In any given classroom having one of these debates, probably only five of them can even vote and all of the others swear they’re going to someday. They promise their government teachers they’re going to be smart about their ballots. But how can they be smart about things that really matter if they can’t even see past their own emotional problems in a playful setting? Maybe if people thought things out before they spoke, everyone would be spared a lot of semantics and we could actually work out how to make a real difference and start compromising with each other on everything in between.