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September 16, 2014

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Sun Youth Forum: Local issues bring out passionate but friendly disagreement

Sean Elezra of Green Valley High School  - 2011 Las Vegas Sun Youth Forum representative Tuesday, November 22, 2011.

Sean Elezra of Green Valley High School - 2011 Las Vegas Sun Youth Forum representative Tuesday, November 22, 2011.

About 1,000 students from high schools throughout Southern Nevada participated in the 55th annual Sun Youth Forum on Nov. 22. The students were divided into groups to discuss a variety of topics. A representative was chosen from each group to write a column about the students’ findings. Sean Elezra of Green Valley High School writes about issues covered by his group, “Potpourri.”

Should there be a constitutional amendment banning abortions? Should all states legalize gay marriage? Should marijuana be legalized (and taxed)?

The questions above illustrate some of the dilemmas that face the federal government today. Clearly, at the federal level, nothing has been done to legalize marijuana and gay marriage or ban abortions. The nuclear option: Take it straight to the kids.

On Nov. 22, high school students from around the valley tackled these questions and more, discussing various issues that plague modern-day society.

I was given the opportunity to be placed in the Potpourri group, the wild card category, with about 30 other students. As we entered the discussion room, we were advised to spread our chairs into a circle and state our name, age and high school. That is where courtesy began and ended. The first question — “What can be done to stop cyber bullying?” — came into play.

The consensus was that nothing in particular could be done to curtail cyber bullying, but there are options to lessen the severity of the phenomena: counseling for the bullied and the person bullying, refraining from social networking sites and “being the bigger person.”

Then, after what seemed like an hour-long discussion on cyber bullying, the heavier topics began to enter the conversation. The next three topics: abortion, gay marriage and marijuana. As the other students and I began to preach our beliefs, we realized that there was no simple solution to these social issues. Based upon ideological, religious and moral differences — and time constraints — there was simply no way that the room could come to a conclusion.

There was a divide between the male and female students on a woman’s right to her own body and the man’s right to the child. There was uproar during the discussion of gay marriage, as some proposed full equality while others claimed that distinctions should be made between a “marriage” and a “domestic partnership.” And by the time talk about marijuana came up, the divide between those advocating legalization and marijuana’s opponents really began to heat up.

Due to the time constraint, the last five questions were discussed for about 10 minutes each. Some of the concluding questions included: “Are professional athletes overpaid?” and “How can the world assist countries with poor economies?”

One of the questions that really interested me was: “Has intolerance in the United States increased in the last 20 years?” After some confusion on the context of “intolerance,” our group decided that religious and ideological intolerance fluctuates depending on the current social climate.

As the Sun Youth Forum came to a close, we ended with discussion on the effect of TV on society and sex education. Regarding TV programming, the overall agreement was the type of programming that the individual subjects himself or herself to has many positive and negative externalities. Sex education was then discussed, and the question of whether sex should be explained to children at an early age by their parents came into play. The group decided that sex should be explained in steps, beginning with informing elementary school students about love and their bodies, and later moving on to logistical knowledge in middle school and high school.

Whether it was gay marriage or sex education, some subjects are just so politically and morally divisive that there was no way to reach a plausible solution that everyone supported. Throughout the whole process, one uniting agreement was reached: agree to disagree.