Opinion: School Needs To Talk About Current Events

Opinion: School Needs To Talk About Current Events

Anavi Prakash , Reporter

Over the last year, there have been several events that will go down in history. From the Covid-19 pandemic to the Black Lives Matter protests and George Floyd’s murder, this has been an unprecedented year.  But no one is talking about that at Whitefish Bay. On January 6, the Capitol was stormed for the first time in years. No one talked about it here. There’s a recent surge in Asian American hate crimes. No one is talking about that either. Why not? We talk about current sports news without any hesitation. Why is there a vague response when it comes to more political issues, like the Capitol Insurrection or the murder of George Floyd? 

Comfort at school is taken for granted because no one pushes people to talk beyond their comfort zone. If a teacher brings up a current issue during class, they resolve the discussion quickly to ensure not getting in trouble with the administration. The only time there was a full discussion in one of my classes was in Global Studies when former President Trump first got impeached, in January 2020. It was a nice opportunity for students to ask questions about the event, but afterwards was never mentioned again. The discussion never delved deep into politics either, another sign the fear of the administration was looming above it.  

If people feel comfortable talking about impeachment, why can’t we talk about things that affect more of us on a personal level? There are events in the world that have affected and do affect the people around us in ways we can’t even begin to imagine. No one tries to imagine them because it’s uncomfortable or they think it doesn’t affect them so it doesn’t matter. But these issues will never go away or get less uncomfortable if we don’t start talking about them. Everyone should know about current issues and feel empathetic towards those facing the injustices because that’s how the world should work. Talking about issues related to human rights, like the coup in Myanmar or the ever growing refugee crisis is crucial. The people affected are deprived of things we take for granted, like education and freedom of speech. Some might think talking about conflicts like the Myanmar coup are too political, but politics aside, these issues are a way for students to understand the world, and find their stance on things they believe in, to align their opinions of the world with their own core values. 

 There are peers in our classes that fear for their lives when they go outside. From the Asian hate crimes to police brutality, their life could be in jeopardy within minutes. Currently the trial for Derek Chauvin, the police officer who knelt on George Floyd’s neck is underway. The arguments justifying Floyd’s murder take away the legitimacy of a fear many people have. In the predominately white town of Whitefish Bay, the people of color who have fear are in the minority. The majority of their peers cannot start to understand how they feel. That’s a problem because that means they lack the empathy needed to support their fellow students. No one talks about that and no one asks their peers anything because it isn’t a comfortable topic, especially when they don’t understand it properly.

Speaking about these things isn’t the norm, but it won’t ever become the norm if we don’t start doing it. From what I can see, the fear is indirectly created by the administration because there isn’t a safe place to talk about current injustices. The safe space has to come from all directions, starting with the administration because that’s who everyone looks to as a leader. Hate crimes aren’t partisan. They’re discrimination against a group of people, and any kind of discrimination is wrong. The backing behind not having discussions about those topics is so the school isn’t biased and doesn’t favor one perspective over another. However, having informative and educational is much more important. Dr. Thomsen, the school district’s superintendent, came into my eighth grade history class two years ago to talk about technology in school. I don’t remember the context of him saying this, but he told us teachers help students learn how to think, but don’t dictate their thinking. That’s what’s important here. Everyone has different values and beliefs, so they’ll interpret things the way that makes sense to them. To do that though, there needs to be a discussion about all the facts, so students can make educated decisions. Educated decisions are the main purpose of school, but now, it’s time to broaden the spectrum to which they apply. Students should use their educated decision making skills to speak up about issues they believe are important now. We are the voice for issues we care about when no one else wants to bring them up. We have to lead with our voices so that the administration and everyone else in the community can follow.

Becoming that leader takes thinking outside the box. Thinking beyond what’s in front of us is difficult, but it’s the basis for problem-solving in the real world.  In math class, we learn how to solve problems step by step. Everything is structured so it fits together in the end. Where do we learn how to think outside the box? Not at school. Why not? It’s beyond the comfort zone. When something is done outside the current norm, the automatic answer that comes to mind is “no,” unless it receives positive encouragement from the community. Take the Diversity Assembly. It wasn’t put on last year because “there was not enough student interest and leadership in coordinating this assembly,” according to Ms. Levek. Not even three months later, there was a Black Lives Matter protest in Whitefish Bay led by students. Students in the same body that “lacked leadership” led a protest like so many others that were occurring across the country. That is student leadership. That should be the norm, because “no” wasn’t an acceptable answer. Challenging the narrative should be the new comfort zone. 

Currently, the school offers an elective current events class. But a student shouldn’t have to go out of their way to find room in their schedule for a class to talk about the world around them in school. Society is being attacked. Why aren’t we talking about it? Whitefish Bay has classes like economics, where we learn how to file taxes, and health, where we spend a whole unit on mental health. Those are things we have to be aware of in the world after high school. We also have to be aware of things like hate crimes that occur all over the world constantly. Something at school needs to change so we learn about these things. 

Whitefish Bay’s motto is “An Exceptional Place to Learn.” We may be learning about plant cells or Shakespeare in an exceptional way, but we aren’t learning about our own world in a way that is exceptional. Those plant cells and plays may help us in the future, but the injustices and inequalities of the world are an imminent issue that everyone should understand and care about all their lives. It starts with the student body. Don’t take no for an answer. It will take stepping out of our comfort zones, which can be scary. It’s also one of the most important things we can ever do. As fun as talking about basketball brackets is, there are things we still need to learn about that should take up that time. School is where we go to learn, and current events are something we need to know about. So, why not put them together? We, as students, need to make our school an exceptional place to learn for our own knowledge, not just based on standardized tests. It starts with us. Speak out now, take the risk now, and we will pave an exceptional path for every student who comes after us.