By HENRY HSIA
It is election night, and a question rings in countless young voters’ heads: this issue sounds important, but how do I vote on it?
Now more than ever, it has become more and more important to be informed in the realm of politics. The issues on ballots affect our everyday lives, yet these issues are frequently ignored in school. Discussion of controversial topics like gun control, abortion, racism, border control or gender are taboo in classrooms around the country. Without these discussions however, the majority of students remain either misinformed or not informed at all in regard to these topics.
As people remain ideologically stagnant throughout their lives, an open dialogue within schools is necessary for individuals to be exposed to new ideas and question their own beliefs. Students can learn how to deal with opposing viewpoints, as well as determine the legitimacy of their own information.
With the rising pervasiveness of social media in our everyday lives, misinformation from sites like Facebook and Twitter can spread like wildfire. These posts are often poorly regulated and never fact checked. Because a large number of people receive their news from unreliable or one-sided social media posts, many students end up basing their opinions on flawed assumptions. If these issues are brought into a classroom setting, students can point out the flaws in their peers’ sources of information, while gaining a better understanding of news sources’ legitimacy. This is an essential skill in our modern age of information, and will be necessary in our students’ future roles in society.
Additionally, students can gain empathy towards others. By putting themselves in someone else’s shoes and viewing issues from a different perspective, students can learn how to mediate between two conflicting arguments.
These same skills of mediation can then be transferred to the real world, where most situations are not black and white. Conflict often arises in many forms in the real world, such as disagreements with employers. Applying the skills developed in the classroom to these classrooms can save a student’s future job and help them attain a better position at a company.
While discussing controversies is prone to evoking strong and aggressive feelings, that is not necessarily a bad thing. Actively addressing these negative reactions and emotions should be a priority, rather than our current method of repressing them. If students do not learn how to approach different opinions, and simply viewed different people as inherently wrong, we will have a generation incapable of compromise and empathy.
From my own experience, classroom discussion in the form of Socratic Seminars have been instrumental to my development. I have accepted new points of view as well as gained an interest in public speaking. Additionally, Socratic Seminars have taught me to express my ideas in an organized and digestible manner. In these classroom discussions, I must be able to clearly articulate my ideas. This skill is especially crucial in the real world, where the method individuals present their ideas is just as important as the idea itself. An effective presentation of ideas requires creativity, clarity and precision, which can be learned in the classroom through discussion rather than hastily developed later in life.
Currently, the modern workings of the U.S. government remain mostly untouched in the classroom; yet, in an age where the discussion of the two parties is stifled, and the responsibilities associated with U.S. citizenship are overlooked, the time for conversation begins in the classroom.
Evidently, the benefits of classroom discussion outweigh the negatives. The problem-solving and critical thinking skills that many students develop as a result of these discussions can benefit them in the daunting real world. Properly informing those who will determine the future of our country should be a larger priority than suppressing controversial topics.