New club fosters civil political discussion

Ben Jutzi, News Editor

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Junior Joshua Yang introduces his new club, Open Forum, to new members. The first meeting took place on Sept. 5, 2017 and the club meets every other Tuesday after school in Room A208. Photo by Ben Jutzi

All it took was a nudge from a friend for junior Joshua Yang to get started on what would become Open Forum, a new club that hopes to facilitate peaceful political dialogue for students.

The club board plans to give presentations on local, national and international political issues, with members discussing the topics afterwards. The club, which meets after school every other Tuesday in Room A208, has contacted numerous political leaders. According to Yang, the club’s president, speakers such as Rep. Bob Dold have agreed to talk at meetings about their experiences in government, such as campaigning, although dates are still tentative.

Yang said the concept for the club arose not because of peoples’ opinions, but rather from what he sees as a reluctance for people to understand views different than their own.

“The feel and tone of the [political] climate today is hostile,” said Yang. “There are people on both sides [of the political spectrum who] aren’t willing to listen, and there’s a problem when you have a conversation or a debate with someone else and you’re not looking to find the better side, but you’re looking to win, and that’s happening in our country.”

According to senior Jacob Denenberg, an Open Forum board member, the club wants its members to be able to discuss issues without having to fight about them.

“The point of the club is to encourage [political] communication between people,” said Denenberg. “It’s really not about the [political]party. It’s about coming together and being educated and receiving information.”

Junior Alex Guman, who attended the first club meeting, said discussion at the meeting was very respectful, possibly due to the cooperative environment the board members established.

At the first club meeting, the board highlighted two discussion topics. The first concerned Japanese military rearmament, with the second focusing on Texas Senate Bill 4, a piece of legislation regarding immigration and sanctuary cities.

Guman said he enjoyed the dialogue, but noticed it was difficult getting people to contribute.

“If the topic was prepared before the actual meeting, then people could get some more information from their own research, which could help move the discussion along a little further,” he said.

Senior Kevin Wang, a board member for the club, said the board is worried about balancing club membership between liberal and conservative thinkers because the Glenbrook North community is liberal-leaning.

“Our biggest worry is definitely the diversity because we do not want a one-sided club,” said Wang. “We do not want an echo chamber. There’s no fruit to that at all.

“We hope the conservative base in the school is passionate enough to attend and represent what they believe in.”

Yang said it is important for participants to make their own informed opinions and evaluate those opinions through discussion, which is one of the club’s major goals.

“We will give you the facts and educate you on certain issues, but once we give you those facts, … you can make your own views,” he said.

Senior Ethan Schonfeld, a conservative who did not attend the first club meeting, said he believes in the purpose of the club. However, the club should focus more on the discussion and less on the presentation.

Despite worries about people not giving the club a chance, Denenberg said he is excited for the opportunity to help bring a greater sense of community and respect back to GBN.

“Something really important to me in high school and going forward into college is community and understanding that we can all come together and form relationships between people of all different varieties.

“A lot of high schools, including GBN, struggle with … understanding and accepting people of different cultures and races,” said Denenberg. “This [club] is just one way to show people that there are other sides to the story.”

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