During an Upper School Assembly on Oct. 22, history teacher Kathryn McCarthy and sophomore Sloan Duvall presented the student body with information on the midterm elections on Nov. 6, and ways to get involved.
A month ago, Ms. McCarthy had approached Dean of Students Will Gilyard asking if the school would address the midterm elections. Since nothing was planned yet, Ms. McCarthy stepped up and pulled a presentation together. “There is so much going on in our country, and I wanted the school to take the lead to have conversations about it and provide background information regarding it,” Ms. McCarthy said.
Form four student government representatives pitched in to help out by setting up a voter registration table during lunch. These individuals included sophomores Henry Mandell, Eden Nenshanti, Risha Ranjan, and Emma Henry.
During assembly, Ms. McCarthy and Sloan, presented a range of information about the elections, addressing the candidates, the process, and the issues at stake.
Ms. McCarthy said she hoped that the assembly served as a starting off point for further conversation in the community. “As citizens in democracy, it is important to know the process, to be aware of who is up for election and to know about some of the issues,” she said. “It allows us to have more informative conversations with one another.”
Sloan agreed that some of the issues the midterm elections deal with are central to youth in the community. “It is important to get involved because some of the most pressing issues affect the future of young people,” she said. “These issues include gun laws, racial inequality, student loan debt, LGBTQ community, and immigration policies. It is important we educate ourselves and get out to support and speak up.”
Ms. McCarthy said she felt it was important to point out the severely low voter turnout rate in the country. “It is not something we should be proud of, and hopefully students will feel compelled to act,” she said. “If we do not vote, we are surrendering our voice, which is one of our most important rights as citizens. Our leaders have a huge impact in setting the tone of the government and creating policies.”
Furthermore, Ms. McCarthy said this was about creating better citizens. “Studies show it is important to build good habits, and that students will be more likely to vote in the future if they are involved now,” she said.
Sloan said that even though the majority of the student body cannot vote, they can still have an impact on the elections. “Even if you’re not 18, there is still a lot you can do,” she said. “This includes canvassing, speaking out about issues, supporting candidates, posting on social media, spreading awareness,” she said.
The student body had mixed responses to the presentation. Freshman Amrita Natarajan said she thought it was quite informative. “It told us about the importance of voting, and the value of seats. These decisions for these seats determine how our lives will be in the future and what changes will be made to our country,” she said.
Risha agreed that it was a great learning opportunity. “Even though some are not eligible to vote yet, we should encourage those who are. It’s great that Ms. McCarthy went up and tried to teach everyone about the status of government and the process,” she said. Senior Katherine Mikaelson said that there was a lot to take away from the presentation. “It was very helpful because it was informative, and they summarized all the candidates and issues,” she said. “I learned the importance of voting on midterm elections.”
Sophomore Braeden Rose said that he thought the presentation was biased toward the democratic perspective.
“It provided more information on the Democratic candidates than Republican, and it appealed to such a small number of students who can vote, which is only a fraction of the Upper School,” he said.
Junior Ella Schwartz said she also thought the presentation was heavily biased. “Had it not been so biased, I think I would have better been able to understand how important it is to understand the process and vote,” she said.
Risha said that she hopes the community can really leave with an optimistic perspective on the elections.
“I think people try to focus on the negatives, but hopefully we can come out of this with a positive outlook in how we can promote change in government and have a say in it,” she said.
Ms. McCarthy said she hopes the community was able to take away how important our involvement is as a community.
“Politics affect our lives ,and the decisions our politicians are making have a ripple effect that affect our interactions,” she said. “Issues like access to health care and education, our view of immigrants, etc., are really things quite personal.”
Furthermore, she said she hopes students are able to develop their individual stances on the issues facing our government today.
“Students in high school are at a stage where they are developing their own opinions, and while it is important for family members and friends to help them out with that, it’s truly an individual choice, which is a really powerful thing,” she said.
In the end, Ms. McCarthy said she hopes students felt more informed about the midterms elections.
“It is important to educate ourselves, and have more fruitful conversations with one another,” she said. “It is all about evolving our thought to learn more about the issues that impact us.”