Thursday, Jan. 31, 2008 | 6 a.m.
More than 950 students from 45 high schools throughout Southern Nevada participated in the 52nd annual Sun Youth Forum on Nov. 20. The students were divided into groups to discuss a variety of topics. A spokesperson was chosen from each group to write for Class Magazine about the students' findings.
Ideas were proposed with deep conviction while contemporaries met with harsh opposition. The raised voices along with the incessant scratching of pen on paper echoed through the walls. People listened intently as they anxiously awaited their turns to speak. Heated debates raged across the room and burnt through the controversial topics.
Upon hearing the description, people might imagine a meeting in the U.S House of Representatives or the Senate. They may be shocked to learn that this was, in fact, a room of high school students in the place of political minds, discussing the issues that affected them at this year's Sun Youth Forum.
"Has America become too politically correct?" was one topic to be considered at the forum. It was discussed and debated for a substantial amount of time with the ultimate answer emerging as "yes and no." America is extremely "P.C." on many topics while still being consistently unaware of others.
The room also debated the exceptionally sensitive subject of abortion. As soon as this topic came into play it was apparent that the group was evenly divided. Both groups -- those who were "pro life" and those who were "pro choice" argued passionately. This discussion lasted nearly an hour and would reoccur throughout the day.
Surprisingly, the most heated disagreements -- and the most time-consuming ones -- revolved around the war in Iraq.
"did we have the right to enter Iraq? Should we pull out of Iraq? How has the media affected our perceptions of the war?" Opinions and statistics were thrown around while deep political and moral beliefs were etched out and defined. Many believed we never should have entered the war at all; some said we should have. Many felt that we should not pull out; many felt we should.
In the end, however, we did find a few things to agree on. We all, unanimously, felt the soldiers deserve moral support and safety. We talked about how soldiers returning from Iraq deserve to be treated as heroes for what they were willing to do for their country, regardless of our own individual beliefs on the war.
We disagreed wildly on the reasons for entering the war, but overall decided that we give little credit to the media on informing us about the was. We felt that media does not give enough information and, therefore, might actually be more hindering than helping. Finally, we all hoped that the war will end in a relatively short time and that peace may prevail in the region.
"Should Congress make English the official language of the United States?" was another lasting debate. Many people were shocked that English could possible not be considered the official language. We talked about the differentiating linguistics of many states and how that affects to keep our disagreements and settle for the "live an let live" policy on the subject.
We may have only been high school students, but our ideas were broad. We discussed patriotism, morality, family values and the environment. Concise, passionate and steadfastly dedicated to our hope for change, we approached each topic with attentiveness above and beyond expectations. For one day, we found other teenagers who were just as involved as ourselves, and felt a sense of pride. there were no winners in the debate, no correctly prevailing opinions -- only the ideas spoken by our peers that stayed with us.
At the close of the day, as the hundreds of students left, the quieting convention center would still echo the most intense arguments, the brightest ideas and the footsteps of the next generation.
Schleuning is a senior at Silverado High School whose group covered the topic of Potpourri.