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April 16, 2014

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Where I Stand: Sun Youth Forum:

Students work hard to find consensus on legal issues

About 1,000 students from high schools throughout Southern Nevada participated in the 56th annual Sun Youth Forum on Nov. 20. 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. Shairgo Kiki of Green Valley High School writes about issues covered by his group, Law and Crime.

On Nov. 20, students were given the opportunity to express their opinions on controversial yet relevant topics in the Sun Youth Forum. In my room we took a list of 35 topics and condensed it down to five that we found most relevant.

The topics we discussed included contraception and its availability to women of all ages, legalization of marijuana, the morality of capital punishment, the morality of the plea bargain and the possibility of trying all people as adults in the court of law. Of those five, the three we discussed in greatest length were contraception, the legalization of marijuana and capital punishment.

Ladies in the room had stronger opinions on contraception than the gentlemen. The female representatives passionately argued that the rights of their bodies should belong solely to them and should not be regulated by state or federal government. When the subject of government regulation came into play, other members developed the idea that by increasing the availability of contraception, we decrease the likelihood of unplanned pregnancies. Although this decrease does not seem to be one that holds a great impact, a student pointed out that with a decreased number of unplanned pregnancies, we could count on a decrease in the number of citizens dependent on welfare and other governmental aid programs. In the end, the consensus was made that contraception should be available to women of all ages.

After the intense hourlong conversation on contraception, our group moved on to another seemingly controversial issue: the legalization of marijuana. One student bravely spoke out on having previously tried marijuana and referenced studies that stated the drug was not detrimental to a person’s health. Other students argued that the federal government could tax the sales of marijuana and receive revenue. Citing an article I read, I brought up an argument made by a number of notable philosophers and economic analysts who said marijuana goes against the fundamental values of capitalism. With capitalism promoting a productive society, legalizing a drug that causes lethargic tendencies could have a negative effect and decrease economic efficiency rather than increase it through taxation. Despite my persistence, the group came to the consensus that legalization would be the best thing for the United States.

Compared with the other two topics, the topic with the greatest clash among the students was capital punishment. Opposing political ideologies were made quite clear in this debate. Students with a more liberal worldview argued vehemently against capital punishment on the grounds that prison is meant to be a rehabilitation facility, while more conservative students argued that the best decision was to remove the convicted individuals from society altogether. Somehow at the closing of this debate, students found common ground and came to the conclusion that we should make prisons into work camps, essentially forcing prisoners to improve society while simultaneously rehabilitating them.

As the day drew to a close, our proctor brought to our attention that quite often teenagers are ignored on their opinions on societal issues and their ideas to amend a clearly flawed system. Fortunately, on Nov. 20 we were not. We had the opportunity to openly express our thoughts on a variety of issues and I am elated to report to the public the opinions of the students in my room at the Youth Forum.

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