Exercising Civil Duty: Student Edition
by Eshani Chakrabarti on Friday, October 21st, 2016
Over the past couple months, the student body at Milton has been buzzing with talk of the upcoming election. It is not uncommon to stumble upon a group of politically informed adolescents, grappling with the many controversies dominating the media. Traditionally left-leaning, Milton is a hotbed for Clinton versus Trump debates.
For my senior year, I decided I wanted to take classes that would not only challenge me academically but also coincide with my own interests. This semester I elected to take Mr. Heath’s American Government and Politics course in order to have the chance to discuss various elements of political philosophy.
This past wednesday, I had a somewhat overwhelming day. My evening was jam packed with newspaper meetings and a capella rehearsals, resulting in my returning home in the wee hours of the night. It was 10:00PM, and I still had english reading and a math worksheet on the agenda for the evening. Exhausted, I completed my remaining assignments and retreated to the comfort of my bed. The next morning I walked into my government and politics class and was jolted with a realization: I forgot to watch the last presidential debate! I like to consider myself a very politically conscious individual. I was raised on episodes of Aaron Sorkin’s the West Wing, I am an avid NPR aficionado, and John Oliver is my celebrity crush. So how did I forget to watch the debate?!
Watching the debate wasn’t assigned for my class, but it was almost assumed that my classmates and I would be watching. The class began to discuss the events of last evening. My classmates made sarcastic quips over Trump’s hand size; Clinton’s Benghazi email scandal was discussed; Trumped up Trickle Down Economics was slammed. But there I was. Paralyzed!
Here we are discussing events and ideas I am passionate about. I am an opinionated young lady, but I am perplexed that I forgot to partake in furthering my political knowledge this past evening. You might have thought I would’ve jumped in and used my background knowledge to participate, but you’d be wrong. I was frankly terrified to embarrass myself with my lack of knowledge. My class is full of bright and well informed students, and I felt as if I hadn’t done my fair share. The class eventually moved on to discussing David Mayhew’s analysis of modern political philosophy, while I looked for any opportunity to move the conversation away from the debate.
So what’s the big deal Eshani? You forgot to watch a debate. You can turn on any news provider and hear the main highlights in five minutes. But for some reason, it mattered to me. I left class and remembered that I go to the kind of school where students are expected to be well informed. Doing the bare minimum isn’t an option, and it’s cool to be smart. Teachers don’t stand a soap box and spend the period lecturing the class. Classes are spent around a harkness table, debating and grappling with the complex nature of modern politics.
Yes, when my teacher asked us if we watched the debate, I nodded along with my fellow classmates. I may have been embarrassed. I may have moped. But truthfully, I feel lucky to go to a place where everyone looks forward to spending classes making sense of the world around them. We’re being taught to not only study from our textbooks but apply our knowledge to events occurring around us. I may be disappointed in myself for missing the debate, but I feel a bit of pride for my school and my class, and I am already looking forward to getting home and watching recaps on CNN this weekend.
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