STUDENTS | October 29, 2020
By Surrey J., Seventh-Grade Student at the Morgan Park High School Academic Center
While I’m not old enough to vote in this year’s presidential election, I’ve still found the time to watch the presidential debates and see our country’s leaders outline their plans for America’s future.
I’ve been a student debater myself for the past two years, and, earlier this month, I had the opportunity to participate in a live debate with fellow students and U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) through Debate it Forward. We were given the opportunity to step into the shoes of a presidential candidate and share our vision for the next four years.
Since I started debating, the number one lesson that I’ve learned is that everyone’s opinion matters. I thoroughly researched issues like healthcare and criminal justice to form my own opinions. And I always learn something new by listening to my peers.
Even when my fellow students and I would rebut each other, we always kept it respectful and gave our opponents the chance to clarify what they meant.
Whenever I’m making a rebuttal to someone’s argument, I try to visualize it as my own argument. I would never want anyone to say that I’m wrong without allowing me to express myself further, so I make sure to give my peers the same opportunity. I believe this is what being a strong communicator is all about—and I’ve made some pretty great friends through debate too.
When I watch the presidential debates, it seems like our candidates sometimes forget about these important communication skills. I feel that they are so quick to judge each other because they haven’t established a strong plan of action to communicate and defend their positions. These are the leaders we depend on, and it’s frustrating to see their interactions be so chaotic.
That’s why I think it’s important for students like me to learn about important issues and current events by researching them ourselves. Knowing the history and background of an issue is a starting place for developing your opinion, and the history of tomorrow is happening right now.
For example, this year has shown me how important resources are, both in education and our economy. With remote learning, I’ve seen how CPS has provided devices for students who don’t have them. That made me think that if we could provide citizens with all the resources that they need in the same way, it would help our economy in the future.
I’ve also learned a lot about natural resources. One of my favorite issues to debate is climate change, and, if I was president, I would tax companies who are producing an abundance of harmful emissions to the environment. This would motivate them to cut down on what they are producing, which would reduce pollution and wildfires.
Becoming president is fun to think about, but my dream career is being an engineer. I know that the communication skills that I’ve been learning will come in handy in that field, just as they would in any other career. There are many parts to a computer or robot, and you can’t always work independently. You have to collaborate and communicate with your teammates to solve problems and create new technology.
When my time as a student debater is up, I also want to become a mentor for other young students to help them discover debate as a way to stay informed on important issues and discover what they are passionate about.
The first presidential election that I will be old enough to vote in is in 2028. I am committed to spending the next eight years learning more, experiencing more, and talking more with my peers and teachers to gain a variety of perspectives to help me cast my first vote. I hope my fellow seventh-graders will be doing the same.
Surrey J. is a Hyde Park resident and current seventh-grade student at the Morgan Park High School Academic Center. In addition to debate, she is also involved in Math Circles and robotics through the University of Chicago, Young Doctors Club through UIC, as well as coding and STEM activities with Black Girls Code.
Interested about how CPS is engaging students around this year’s important elections? Click here to learn more and make sure to follow the district’s Department of Social Science and Civic Engagement on Twitter and Instagram at @CPSCivicLife.