Kids are paying attention. At a Classroom Hearing on Civic Virtue on October 28, students from the sixth and seventh grades at Shady Cove Middle School spoke of their concerns and what they would like to see resolved in this election. Their thoughts paralleled those of many adults, with healthcare and unemployment at the top of the list.
About 14 students from Fred Alexander’s civics class gave one-minute presentations on issues, including abortion, to a panel composed of Shady Cove Mayor Ron Holthusen, businesswoman Kathleen Collins and Shady Cove resident Ed Mayer, a member of the city’s planning commission. The purpose of the hearing was to prepare students for the 2010 Youth Summit that will take place on Election Day at the RCC/SOU Higher Education Center in Medford.
This year’s summit focuses on gubernatorial and senate races. Pre-summit lessons help students learn about the offices, the candidates and issues. At the actual summit on Election Day, youth from Medford, Portland and outlying towns will share their ideas with each other and with civic leaders in their communities.
The classroom exercise at the middle school was similar to a congressional hearing. As each student went to the lectern, they were required to greet and shake hands with the panelists, learning yet another civics lesson—how to behave in a professional manner.
Two virtues almost each student said they expected from elected officials were respect and honesty. A student named Victor said officials should “do the right thing even when no one is looking,” a sentiment that panelists heartily agreed with. In the same vein, Thorin said leaders should not be emotional but have calm temperaments.
Unemployment hit close to home. Two girls said their fathers had lost their jobs because of the economy and discussed the struggles their families are going through. When one of the two told about her mother also losing her job, she choked up and had to sit down before she had finished her speech. There was a sympathetic silence in the room while everyone contemplated this scenario.
Job loss is responsible for the loss of healthcare and might cause people to become homeless and maybe even lead to the use of drugs, offered another student. And Takoda pointed out a bad leader could make unemployment worse.
Lack of healthcare was obviously important to the students. Morgan said healthcare is the most important issue around the world with education being the other big issue. Lack of money was a common thread why people do not get treatment for illnesses such as asthma and cancer.
Bringing up a controversial subject, one student said she thinks someone should take control of Oregon’s abortion because some people are not ready to become moms yet. They have a choice. She was concerned they might not have enough money to seek healthcare or anyone to talk to at government level. Without giving their personal feelings on abortion, the panelists handed this sticky subject diplomatically. Collins said it was a tough decision while Mayer said it took courage to throw out a controversial issue and let everyone out there know how they feel.
The environment was a hot topic including getting a leader who would do something about the trash alongside roads. Panelist mentioned organizations that use volunteers to clean trash along streets and beaches.
Volunteerism was addressed by several students with Jacob suggesting youth help seniors in retirement homes or perhaps joining an organization such as the neighborhood watch program. “Helping yourself is like helping the future because us kids are the future. So helping the future will help the world,” he philosophized.
By Margaret Bradburn
Of the Independent