I believe in talking about important political issues in school.
School shapes children’s lives in a major way. School teaches children about the world around them, about how things work. So what better place to teach kids about politics than school?
I believe how to talk about politics is a skill all kids should learn. It’s what the presidential candidates do every four years, and kids listen and hear what they’re saying. I remember one morning, near the beginning of this school year, I went downstairs to have breakfast. The radio was on, and I heard the word “tariffs.” I had heard the word on the radio many times before, but I didn’t know what it meant. I made a mental note to ask my dad about it.
I’m lucky to have parents who explain political vocabulary and current issues to me, but I know many kids don’t. Some aren’t with their parents a lot of the time, or don’t have parents who feel comfortable talking about politics with them. But I believe if our society wants kids to grow up to be educated voters, adults should help us understand what politicians and candidates are talking about when they say “tariffs” or “immigration” or “foreign trade.”
And many kids want to learn about politics. We want to know what those politicians are saying. We want to learn about current political events. That’s where schools can come in.
Once we learn about politics, I believe we should also form our own opinions and have class discussions, as long as everyone is respectful and listens to one another. The ability to truly listen and discuss contested issues is an important skill to have in any situation—not just in politics.
In an English class in sixth grade, I made a PowerPoint presentation promoting gun control, not long after the Parkland school shooting. I presented my side with facts to back up my opinion. A couple of days later, a classmate made a PowerPoint presentation countering mine, saying gun control was not what we needed.
I admit that at the time I was kind of annoyed, but I quickly realized that this was great. We both tried to convince the audience and we both gave our opinions supported by facts. Most of all, we were respectful of each other regardless of our disagreement. I remember feeling satisfied, like this is what school should be like. I remember thinking, “Wow, I wish this could happen more often.”
Although I disagreed with this classmate on many political levels, I always admired him. He was someone who wasn’t afraid of posing his argument, even though he knew many of his classmates disagreed with him. That takes courage… but maybe it wouldn’t seem so scary if we made it a normal part of our education.
I believe more schools should encourage students to talk about politics. Doing so would benefit students in countless ways: exposing us to respectful debate, helping us learn about current political events and teaching us how to accept that there will always be people who disagree with us. Those, in my opinion, are all necessary skills to have—both in school and outside of it.
Reuben Schreier is in 7th grade at the Delta Program in downtown State College.