During winter break, about 15 students spent time researching taxes, foreign policy and entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicaid. Now they are drawing that research together and coming up with ideas about solving these seemingly intransigent federal budget problems.
After that, the Whiteland Community High School students plan to send copies of their report to members of Indiana’s congressional delegation.
The project grew out of a discussion by the politics club at the school. They started meeting to discuss the fall presidential election. Students with views across the political spectrum took part.
They didn’t have their discussions among like-minded students. They encouraged differing views. They discussed and debated in a civil way.
Perhaps no minds were changed, but that doesn’t matter. They were talking and, more importantly, listening.
The club continued after the election, and club sponsor Justin Brownfield, a history teacher at the school, pointed them in the direction of the national budget.
Before the break, the students were divided into subcommittees to look at specific issues, such as health care, defense spending and entitlement programs. Then over the holidays, they researched their respective issues. Now the entire group is examining the results and compiling and debating its recommendations.
The next step is to send the final report to Indiana members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.
Junior Nicolé Gaviola, one of the club’s student founders, said he hopes that members of Congress who receive the plan will see that compromise is possible. “Hopefully, they will see that high school students can actually make a compromise,” he said.
Perhaps the students’ ideas will offer alternatives. Perhaps they will be unworkable. But the point is, they are thinking seriously about the issues, and their arguments might be just the spark needed to begin serious
For the students themselves, though, the real value lies in the process more than the product. They learned real-life lessons about working in small and large groups, and researching, discussing and synthesizing information. All are skills they will need when they enter the workforce.
They also learned valuable lessons about how to be constructively engaged in the legislative process. Civic involvement is vital for a robust democracy.
We commend the students for their hard work and their willingness to engage in serious discussion of society’s problems. We also commend their teacher for channeling that youthful energy in so constructive a way.
The efforts of the politics club at Whiteland offer a good example for other young people to follow.