Drawing political lines in class?With politics heating up for the upcoming election season, East Ridge High School has become a ground for debate with dueling student groups — the Young Republicans and the Young Democrats.
By: Amber Kispert-Smith, Woodbury Bulletin
With politics heating up for the upcoming election season, East Ridge High School has become a ground for debate with dueling student groups — the Young Republicans and the Young Democrats.
However, even though the groups may share very different opinions and political views, members say they don’t let that get in the way of school.
“We know most of the people in Young Republicans as friends, so we kind of have these friendly debates on a daily basis in our classrooms,” said Laura Peters, president of East Ridge Young Democrats group.
Both groups are advised by social studies teacher Robert Ramey.
“I think these groups are a great way for students to meet other students who are like minded who they may not have otherwise met,” Ramey said. “I think it’s good to get together and just talk about things, because I think it’s good for both sides to understand one another — nobody is bad, they just disagree on the issues, so they can learn from each other.”
Members in the Young Republicans and Young Democrats agree that having these groups at ERHS serves as a good forum to discuss their views in a comfortable environment with those who see things the way they do.
“It’s a way to get together and discuss issues without being judged by peers who happen to overhear,” said Young Republicans member Alycia Lape.
Having student groups with such differing view points on issues — such as health care, energy, the Middle East, the national debt — at the school could potentially cause rifts between students. But both groups agree that they are not trying to push their opinions on other people.
“I don’t like to force my opinions on anyone, but it’s fun to talk about that ‘This is what I believe and this is why,’” Lape said. “With young people, as soon as you start to even mention politics, they’re automatically “I hate politics,’”
Additionally, both groups are trying to spread the word that politics are important to pay attention to because they effect everything in your life, Young Democrats member Hannah Strom said.
“It’s kind of a part of our world and our society, so you need to be involved, but a lot people just don’t care.”
Ramey said having the two groups simultaneously at the school has been a learning experience for everyone involved since this is the first time for everything.
“The school has been really supportive of the groups,” he said.
In addition to learning what the groups can and cannot do in terms of campaigning on school property — District 833 has a policy against that — Ramey said it has also been a learning experience trying to give fairness and equality to each group.
Previously the Young Republicans invited Republican state representative candidate Andrea Kieffer to speak, and now Ramey is trying to help the Young Democrats secure either Sen. Katie Sieben or Rep. Marsha Swails, both Democrats.
Overall though, Ramey said the groups have proven to be supported by the school as a way to allow students to share their opinions.
Even though the vast majority of the students in the Young Republicans and the Young Democrats aren’t yet 18, and won’t be for a few years, the students said the fact that they can’t vote doesn’t hinder their passions for politics.
“Right now a lot of politicians are looking to the younger generations for the future,” said Young Republicans president Pari Cariaga. “I think we’re just trying to get students interested in politics because their vote does count and they can make a difference.”
Members from the groups said they are also trying to focus on educating young voters on the issues and the politics.
“We are trying to raise awareness, because you’re less inclined to vote if you don’t know,” Strom said.
“We need to inform those people who don’t know why they believe in what they believe in,” said Young Republicans member Noelle Lodge said.
Young Democrats member Peters said she enjoys politics because it reminds her of the freedom she has to decide her own views.
“My parents talked to me about politics when I was younger because they wanted me to figure it out for myself,” she said. “It’s great being able to come up with your own views — my views are not all necessarily democratic views, but they’re my views.”