Monday, Jan. 7, 2013 | 2:02 a.m.
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. Justin Wilke of Desert Oasis High School writes about issues covered by his group, Potpourri.
In one of the rooms for the Potpourri group at the Sun Youth Forum, 30 students sit in a circle, scanning the room, mentally preparing themselves for the long day ahead. There is no lack of brains or talent here; in the circle are five valedictorians, 11 varsity athletes and 30 completely different opinionated people. The task they are being asked to perform is to discuss a list of questions and find a solution for each one. As the moderator walks into the room and sits down at his table, the day begins.
The first topic being discussed is whether abortion degrades the idea of America’s posterity. Almost immediately, the discussion takes a turn toward whether abortion should be allowed.
After the moderator redirects the students to what the question is really asking, a majority vote decides that abortion has nothing to do with America’s posterity. The next question, — Should the sale of condoms be age-restricted? — is over just as fast with a unanimous vote of no.
After the first two questions, several students motion that the group move to a heavier-hitting topic. The question: Is it moral for colleges to allocate seats to minorities?
Those who felt it was moral argued that many minorities live in poverty and do not have the same opportunities as most Caucasian citizens. Those who were against allocating seats said the United States is founded on the principle that all men are created equal; therefore, college acceptance should be based on merit and the person you are, not where you come from. Many students also argued that America is a place where people can flourish in any condition and achieve anything.
In the end, no consensus was reached.
The next topic proves to only add more fuel to the fire. The group moves in a new direction with the question of whether gay marriage dilutes the sanctity of traditional marriage.
One group of students argued that marriage is a religious institution and that gay marriage does not qualify as to what society considers marriage. The other side argued that according to the First Amendment to the Constitution, there must be a separation of church and state and that calling something marriage blurred these lines. They argued that gay couples should be allowed to marry and that society needed to change its views.
The conversation continued to get more and more heated as neither side would give in and find a way to compromise with the other so that a solution could be found.
Again, the group could not reach a consensus.
As the day wore on, a pattern in the group’s conclusions began to appear. On topics mostly involving a discussion of facts or using what most of the group considered common sense, a majority vote was easily reached. However, on topics involving any sort of religious or moral issue, the group argued endlessly without being able to reach a conclusion that a majority found acceptable.
It is strange just how much the group’s actions and decisions mirror those of Congress. Whether the topic is gay marriage, education or the rights of enemies of the state, some subjects are rooted so deeply in students’ morals and beliefs that it proves impossible to find a middle ground.
It seems that even though many students know each other, are close in age and have many similar interests, there are just some subjects that they refuse to compromise on.
At the end of the day, many of the students walk away with one lesson ingrained in their heads. If a group of students so similar cannot reach a consensus, how can we expect Congress, which is much more diverse, to do the same thing? At some point, one side is going to have to do what the students could not, “man up” and compromise; otherwise, we will continue facing these social and economic “crises” that plague our nation.