Knowing how to engage in productive debate and discussion is an integral skill that should be taught in a high school environment. For students to learn how to hold a conversation with an individual who holds differing views than themselves is essential for preparing students for university and beyond.
Founded in 2014, the Social Justice Council (SJC) presents itself as a perfect platform for discussions to be had. The mission statement states that the SJC, “aims, through action and education, to promote a school environment in which all members feel safe to voice their opinions while embracing the identities and backgrounds of their peers.” In order to successfully promote a safe space for all viewpoints to be heard, the SJC should actively provide the venues and outlets for productive conversations to be had, not only within the council itself, but also catered to the larger student body.
One such initiative by the SJC that this editorial board feels was successful is Aequitas Day, which provided a forum for productive discussion on important issues, such as race, class and feminism. Aequitas Day was well-executed, however it was just one day. This editorial board would like to see the SJC encouraging student discourse on current, and perhaps controversial, events on a regular basis. We are not suggesting that Aequitas Day should be held on a more frequent basis, as the obvious schedule disruptions are deterances. Rather, we suggest that more discussion forum opportunities are held to coincide with important events.
The Gender Equity Club sponsored an observance of International Women’s Day that encouraged community members to wear red to school and for women to avoid making purchases in order to contribute to “a day without women.” This editorial board supports the acknowledgement of this day and strongly commends the club for its championing of this cause. However, this editorial board is disappointed with the lack of encouragement from the club for students to engage in debate and discussion on the day. Some students wore red, debates were held in grade-wide Facebook groups, but there was a lack of initiative for students to hold structured conversations in real life.
This editorial board does not point to a lack of venues for discussion, rather a lack of participation from the wider student audience. The SJC and the Gender Equity Club often encourage non-members to attend their meetings. However, the issue stands that many of the members of the SJC are also members of the Gender Equity Club, and are often like-minded. In order to hold a truly valuable debate on an issue, students with a range of perspectives need to be present. If students who hold differing views from the members of these organizations don’t feel comfortable expressing their opinions in the forums offered, then new platforms need to be introduced.
We are not aiming to insinuate that the lack of discussion venues are the fault of any specific student organization, rather a void in our community. As a student organization, The Standard also has a responsibility to inform students and provide them with a platform to engage in constructive dialogue and disagreement. Thus, we are proposing to introduce events sponsored by The Standard open to the entire student body, which coincide with important days of observance or current events. We want you to join the discussion.