Las Vegas Sun

October 21, 2014

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WHERE I STAND:

Teens need guidance, freedom to grow

Justin Gutzwa

Justin Gutzwa

Teenagers are often portrayed as the “lost generation” of today’s society. This, however, is not the case for those students who participated in the 2009 Sun Youth Forum. Teenagers, contrary to popular belief, have a voice and want nothing more than to have their opinions heard.

In our discussion group, we were presented the task of debating several teen topics pertinent to our lives. The first issue of discussion was whether parents did enough to prevent their children from engaging in risky behavior. It was the consensus of the group that children and parents are responsible for children’s mistakes. Specifically, many individuals stressed the importance of parents establishing strong relationships with their children at a young age, claiming it would aid in deterring risky behavior.

Soon, discussion shifted to the importance of public service in the lives of high school students. The entire room agreed that public service is important. There was, however, disagreement as to whether public service ought to be required or encouraged at the high school level. The group ultimately decided it would be best to require all students to participate in at least one service project throughout the course of their secondary education in an effort to increase participation in service projects.

Discussion then centered on whether Hollywood passes a positive message on to today’s youth. Most thought that what comes out of Hollywood was largely negative, rarely setting a positive example for America’s youth. Though the group recognized that reforming the entertainment industry was impossible, many believed it to be our duty as young adults to filter our intake of Hollywood to reduce negativity.

A debate regarding the simplification of Las Vegas graduation requirements soon developed into a discussion of the importance of the Nevada Proficiency Exam. The majority believed Nevada’s education system to be weak enough as is — no simplification of requirements was therefore necessary. In fact, some argued that making requirements more strenuous would push those who were disinterested in education to strive for better goals, increasing the graduation rate.

Discussions next turned to more touchy topics: sex education and the importance of STD and pregnancy awareness. Most believed that by removing all politics from lessons, and making sex education strictly medical in nature, students would gain the knowledge necessary to properly deal with the issues of sex.

Conversations on sex and childbirth soon led to a debate regarding the longevity of high school romances, and what causes relationships to go bad. Pressure from peers and society in general to engage in sex and to rush into romance were seen as the biggest relationship-breakers, followed by the blurring of the distinction between love and lust and the overall maturity of students.

When asked if students’ bags ought to be checked upon coming on campus, the group was divided. Some felt that it was an infringement upon one’s constitutional rights to check property without reasonable suspicion, while others viewed the practice to be in the best interests of Las Vegas teens and school district faculty.

No debate about teen topics is complete without the mention of the new phenomenon of “sexting.” The debate concluded with the consensus that no generic, blanket rule could be applied to the legality of sexting, as there are too many plausible scenarios that need to be evaluated individually.

After several hours of discussion, debates and disagreements, it is easy to see that Las Vegas teenagers have a voice, and are eager to express their thoughts.

Through the Sun Youth Forum, these students have been given the unparalleled opportunity to convey their opinions.

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