Barnum students get a lesson in civics
December 23, 2022
Students in Audra Richardson’s 11th-grade English class in Barnum have been studying the current political divide in the country and how to find common ground.
“Throughout the lesson, it crossed my mind that this topic would be both timely and interesting for our community, especially from students who will be voting in the next presidential election,” Richardson said. “Maybe we could learn something from our younger generation about the need for common ground. Wouldn’t that be something if we could get people to think about respecting others, breaking out of filter bubbles, holding a civil discussion, and expecting news sources to refrain from bias?”
The following are excerpts from student essays outlining what they learned in the lesson, followed by short biographies they wrote about themselves.
“We need bridge-building between Americans. The American government is a system of many parties, but in reality we are a two-party system of Republicans and Democrats, but only because these two parties have raised the most money to create the biggest chances to win. Unfortunately, these two sides have become extremely divided. But if you can learn to speak both languages, according to writer and political commentator David Brooks, we can begin to build a bridge between the parties. We can begin to compromise. We all have a common future, whether we like each other or not. We all live under the same bills and policies; we all live with the same economy and environment.”
Gabe enjoys hands-on projects such as mechanics, physical work and football. He strives for success.
“A way to build this bridge is to get out of your bubble, read something from the other side, watch news from the other side to gain perspective. It will help in conversations with people on the other side. Knowing the ‘other side’ could bring solutions and compromises, too. This way, we are all aware of what is at stake and what sacrifices we are willing to make and take. …
“I might not be able to vote right now, but I am the future of this nation. When it is my turn to vote, I will look at both sides to get the best understanding. If we want what’s best for this country, we will do the same.”
Jordan likes rippin’ the sled, playing hockey, and skiing with the boys.
“I believe that everyone should learn to speak both languages. That means people should watch stuff about the opposite side you believe in to get a better understanding of what that side believes. Most people only watch stuff on the side of the political spectrum that they believe in, so that means they only get to hear about one side, either the Republican side or Democrat side. Just about no one knows what both sides believe in or think. I feel that if Americans knew what both sides were thinking then more people would be closer to the middle of the political spectrum instead of far left or far right. That’s why I believe that the people of America need to learn to speak both languages to have a better understanding of one another.”
Cole loves playing football, snowboarding, dirt biking and snowmobiling.
“(A) way to find compromise is to shift the tribalistic mentality that fellow Americans have on the left or right. Rather, switch this mentality to divisive politics and clickbaiting news media versus voters and politicians willing to find a compromise that people can agree with. Moreover, citizens should vote against the politicians who work to polarize us and capitalize on our different beliefs. This is little different from now and the Gilded Age. In those days the people turned against the monopolies that fed our ancestors diseased food and paid politicians to stay in business. …
“We need to ensure that more than two political parties have voices and votes. One way smaller political parties can have a voice and votes is to standardize a maximum amount of money that can go to campaign advertising. This practice has been used effectively by our northern neighbor Canada. Another thing that needs to be done is that the candidates from all parties have a podium in the debates before elections. Let’s level the playing field so that all Americans have a voice.”
Miles enjoys learning history and listening to old-school rock.
“Another problem is the algorithms used in social media. For instance, you will see one video on the news, TikTok or Facebook, though your friends or family members probably won’t see the same one because our likes and dislikes are tracked constantly. We get more of what we want; this is known as a filter bubble, where you only see your likes and not your dislikes. If we could change the algorithm for the news, apps, websites and social media, people can know all the versions, which can expand our perspective. In other words, we should learn to speak languages from both sides of the aisle.
“We are one American tribe. We need to fight media bias and filter bubbles. We need to speak and listen to each other to both grow as a nation and be secure.”
Olivia enjoys working with kids. She also likes creating art and performing in both cheerleading and gymnastics.
“It’s difficult to find common ground when everyone lives their lives differently. We have to learn to disagree but also respect other opinions and be tolerant of each other. Some may think that the ‘other side’ is so extreme that negotiation is impossible. This may be because some opinions are deeply rooted, making it difficult for some people to completely understand another perspective. If it’s what they were taught, it’s hard to change a lifelong opinion, so we must be patient. Even then, it’s still important to listen to what others have to say to understand where they’re coming from. We need to know both sides of the story by popping the filter bubbles and speaking both languages — Republican and Democrat. In American society, it’s OK to acknowledge differences. We don’t have to like or agree with their opinion, but we have to respect each other as fellow human beings. After all, that’s what America is all about — helping our neighbor and our community with positive impacts.”
Elliot enjoys drawing, playing music, and writing. He loves
creating something beautiful.
“By acknowledging both sides of the political spectrum, we gain respect needed to hold civil conversations with whom we disagree. As we come to understand why others think the way they do, we can find a common ground. Importantly, if we don’t figure out how to have a respectful conversation, our country will endure more protests and riots while America bursts into flames, experiencing another civil war in a country split apart in fear. As Americans, don’t we want to converse with each other? As flyover states in Middle America, don’t we want to be heard just as much as the coastal elites? When we feel like we aren’t heard, we choose not to listen to others around us.”
Sophia likes to explore, hike and travel with family. She loves experiences and memories rather than items.
“What is a compromise, you may ask? A compromise happens when two or more people agree on something to better the people. And in today’s day and age, that has gone out the window. We see it everywhere — from TV ads to gas station bathrooms — the political spectrum has become very toxic, arguing about nearly everything and acting like big babies when they don’t get their way. No negotiation, no compromise.
“I say we need to change that in our society. We can’t keep going on like this because we aren’t getting anywhere acting like this.”
Lars enjoys welding, ranching and farming as well as fixing and building things.