The events of January 6 spurred messy discussion about the state of our nation. In response, Mr. Appel, a social studies teacher at RHS, saw the need to regulate discussion about topics pertaining to this conflict, resulting in the RHS 2021 Truth and Media Civil Discourse Forum on March 12.
The forum included three panelists: Guy Benson, a Fox News contributor, Tim Urban, blogger and founder of “Wait But Why,” and Allison Orr, a reporter for Dateline NBC. These panelists answered student questions and spoke on topics such as who should take responsibility for the capitol insurrection, the source of fake news, and holding media sources accountable.
Anna, a freshman who attended the forum, enjoyed it, saying “I found it very interesting how all the panelists had different backgrounds leading them to having unique opinions to offer.” She says “Something that stuck with me from the forum was how the issue with false news in the media is the demand for fake news, not the supply. It made me realize that I myself just want to read things that are on ‘my side.’”
Mr. Appel observes this at RHS, explaining that “when you feel challenged, it’s an uncomfortable feeling. You’re going to gravitate towards people, education, news sources, and other things that you agree with because it’s not uncomfortable. People shut down opposition rather than embrace it and cherish it.”
Topics like politics and media are notoriously contentious, and it’s easy to want to avoid them. Anna comments that “I believe issues in the media are not talked about enough in school. We should have more time to talk about current events as many of my peers and I don’t always know issues that are happening in the world, unless it is very major. The only way to really become informed on society’s struggles is to do research and education on your own time, and for many, this is not something they’d choose to do at first.”
Lauren Creed, a junior, thinks similarly. “I have seen social media be used as a resource to help our generation become informed on issues regarding our government. However, I am worried that my generation uses social media as their sole source of news, which I believe to be extremely harmful. I would like to see RHS do a better job of encouraging its students to seek out more reliable news so that we can have an informed group of future voters.”
Mr Appel agrees by expressing what he feels is his responsibility as an RHS teacher: “We have an obligation to you guys as our students to find a way to navigate the world and to figure out how you can find truth and be responsible voters but also successful people. There’s also an obligation we have to society to create a successfully functioning electorate. If we fail in our ability to teach you guys how to find truth, we will have a whole bunch of citizens who, once they get out of school, can’t find truth and then we tumble into the same issues we have now.”
Anna remarks that “We can’t ever learn and grow as a society if we don’t listen to others. If we pretend issues don’t exist in society, people will continue to be wronged by these injustices and problems.”
There was overwhelmingly positive feedback for the forum, with many students hoping to attend in the future. We can’t thank Mr. Appel enough for planning this, and look forward to the other forums he has planned for us in the coming years.
Photo: Logan Richman