American Polarization: The Deep Freeze in Political Unity

During the Great Depression, the worst economic crisis in United States History, Americans still had hope in their country. To modern-day Americans, this might seem quite surprising, considering the 1930s were a time of trepidation and poverty. However, Americans during the 1930s had faith in each other, and they had faith in their leaders. They heard stories of people pulling themselves up from poverty and believed they could do the same. And many did. As a nation, we pulled ourselves through the troublesome Great Depression, through a brutal second world war, through the frightening Cold War, and through divisive social issues such as the Women’s Rights and the Civil Rights Movements. Now, it seems as though these same issues are whirling back. But this time, I am worried we will not be able to pull ourselves through. Crises bring people together, but today there seem to be so many comparatively smaller crises, such as natural disasters, terrorist shootings, and social divisions, that we are drowning in the chaos. But that is not why we cannot rise up above the issues. Simply put, it is because everyone seems to hate each other. It is no secret: political polarization is threatening the our nation’s ability to progress.

Polarization is far more than party rivalries, debates, or disagreements. I have been involved in countless debates, whether in Junior State of America, Model UN, Congressional debate, or with friends and family, and they are often are a back and forth of “I am right, you are wrong.” In theory, we learn to appreciate both sides despite this mentality. In the real world,  however, many do not appreciate both sides. So many Americans shun, reject, and hate other Americans who do not share their ideology. In fact, a study reported by the Atlantic in 2012 found that 40% of Americans oppose party intermarriage in comparison to only 5% in 1960.  It is no longer a matter of Democrat versus Republican or Republican versus Democrat. It is a matter of Right versus Wrong, Moral versus Immoral, and Virtue versus Evil. People associate opinions which differ from their own on how our country should be run with immorality. So many Americans are “rooting” for their political party without looking at the issues facing our nation through an unbiased lens.

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Fall One Day 2017 Recap

On October 21st, 2017, JSA student delegates from Illinois and Wisconsin traveled to the Union League Club of Chicago for the first Midwest-level convention of the year, Fall One Day. The event was in its third annual iteration, and Midwest Governor Colin Jensen began the convention with a few opening remarks. He was followed by the keynote speaker for the convention, Sarah Brune. As the Executive Director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, Brune spoke at length about her experiences from both running a nonprofit associated with political activism and her maturation as an advocate and young person in rural Nebraska. During the questioning period that followed her keynote speech, she provided students valuable advice on staying involved in their community.

Soon after, the first debate block began. Three debates and one thought talk were running simultaneously in the Union League Club’s exquisite rooms. Topics ranged from launching cyberattacks on Russia to prohibiting colleges from asking for applicants’ criminal history. After the third block, delegates went out into the city to eat lunch and converse with other delegates. A fun block with debate games such as RISK and Debates Against Humanity closed out the activities — a raucous, warm ending to an excellent convention.

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Op-ed: Women Not Wombs, or the Hypocrisy of the Pro-Life Movement

Clad in her thigh-high politics, writer Lauren Duca said, “When it comes to true financial and social equity, a woman’s right to choose is nonnegotiable.” In conjunction with President Trump’s recent attack against Obamacare, the effort to defund Planned Parenthood and all organizations that offer abortion clinics has again been brought to the forefront of politics. In the White House (and other branches of government), old white men (lacking ovaries) have crowded around an anti-abortion executive order to rule once and for all that the reproductive systems of 157 million women in this country are an entity that should be governed. As this ideology continues to thrive under the Republican reign, it is crucial to recognize the danger posed by coat-hanger methods and the illegal black market system that women resorted to just decades ago to perform abortions. These methods, conjured out of desperation, made opting out of the unhealthy and premature commitment that accompanies an unwanted pregnancy fundamentally dangerous. The stigma and opposition surrounding a woman’s right to have an abortion is blatant proof that we as a society do not trust a woman’s capability of making logical and self-governing decisions. Reproductive health, especially including abortion, should be fully accessible and funded by our government.

Regardless of the circumstance– whether it be rape, faulty birth control, or even immaturity– pregnancy should never be treated as a punishment. An unwanted and poorly-timed pregnancy does not only harm the woman, but it also sets a detrimental path for the child. This path includes neglect, poor financial situations, negative psychological impacts, and numerous other harms to the child. Texas Senator Ted Cruz, a pro-life Republican, reasons that, “every human life is a precious gift from God”. Yet it is important to acknowledge that life is treated less of a “gift” if it is given as a punishment and taken unwillingly. Going through with an unwanted pregnancy creates a decades-long financial burden for the woman and will more than likely foster overwhelming emotional and psychological instability (especially in cases of rape/unhealthy relationships). It is unfortunate, to say the least, that the argument for pro-life often excludes the life of the woman.

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Naperville North ChapCon Recap

Naperville North High School hosted the first Midwest JSA Chapter Conference of the year on October 14th. During registration, attendees had the opportunity to donate used art supplies to SCARCE, an environmental organization non-profit based in Glen Ellyn, IL. Various desserts, baked by various NNHS chapter members, were also available for purchase. Roughly 90 students from a variety of different chapters were in attendance.

After the conference was called to a start by Chapter President Max Zhang, students broke off into three different rooms, two of them featuring different debates and one featuring a thought talk. Issues discussed ranged from stock options and company executive pay to governmental funding towards Planned Parenthood. Different styles of debate, such as the 180, where the speakers must argue in favor of the opposite viewpoint at the moderator’s discretion, were featured in each block.

After two blocks of heated discussion, pizza, salad, and drinks were served. JSAers took this time to catch up with one another and discuss their favorite JSA experiences. Appleton’s Cecelia McDermott says that IntroCon featured “ some of [her] new favorite memories of connecting with other JSAers.”

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Chapter Leadership Conference Recap

On September 30th, members of Midwest Cabinet of the Junior State of America hosted a successful Chapter Leadership Conference at Lake Forest High School in Lake Forest, Illinois. The event was oriented towards enhancing the skills and knowledge base of current and potential future student leadership in JSA. JSA members came from as far as Ann Arbor, MI and Appleton, WI to attend the conference. After participating in a brief icebreaker activity, JSA Chapter Presidents and their accompanying future leadership delegations attended various workshops led by directors on Midwest Cabinet. Workshops included activities to build understanding debate, chapter strengthening, publicity, fundraising and activism in a JSA context, and attendees received information on JSA’s Summer School Programs.

After the workshops came lunch — a time for attendees to form new friendships and catch up with old ones. Pizza and soda drinks accompanied budding friendships and light discussion.

The second half of the conference was dedicated to chapter conference planning. Members of Cabinet presented a slideshow that covered the many aspects of properly hosting chapter conferences. Then, attendees broke out into small groups to formulate ideas for their own upcoming ChapCons throughout the year.

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Cabinet Convention Recap

On the 26th and 27th of August, the Midwest Cabinet, comprised of a group of individuals appointed by the Governor and Lieutenant Governor to help run and improve the Midwest State, convened at the Hyatt Regency in Schaumburg, Illinois to discuss their vision for the upcoming 2017-2018 JSA year. In only two days, they brainstormed numerous goals, planned out their agenda for the year, began working in each of their departments, and above all, formed a close-knit bond. Members of Cabinet came out of the weekend newly energized for what is to be an extremely exciting and productive year of JSA.

Each department set challenging but tangible goals. Examples include the Fundraising Department’s aim to raise at least $12,000 by the end of this year and the Chapter Internal Affairs and Expansion Department’s aim to reverse the trend of the decreasing number of chapters in the Midwest. Consequently, a generous amount of time was set aside for developing and following-through with these goals. Cabinet members from all departments worked tirelessly through the night on a number of important tasks: creating resolutions, event calendars, graphics, and so much more. By the time Sunday afternoon rolled around, members felt more than comfortable in their ability to serve the Midwest. As Expansion Agent Tatiana Washington puts it, “to say CabCon was productive would simply be an understatement.”

Cabinet is more prepared than ever to execute a variety of initiatives on both the state and national level. One such example is fundraising for the nation-wide matching grant which starts on September 1st. The dollars raised during this event will be going to scholarships that will help JSAers attend major conventions.

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Fall State 2016 Recap

From November 19-20th, nearly 400 high school students from all across the Midwest traveled to Madison, Wisconsin to participate in the annual JSA Fall State convention. Following the difficult, divisive election cycle, the convention was appropriately titled From Promises to Policy: Unifying the Nation. In the morning, students had the privilege of hearing from keynote speaker Shiva Bidar-Sielaff, a local legislator, politician, and City Council member in Dane County, Wisconsin. Bidar’s speech highlighted unity and students had the opportunity to ask Bidar a variety of questions. Following Bidar’s speech, delegates participated in a multitude of debates, written and developed by the Midwest Cabinet, that ranged from feminism to EU geopolitics to parenting techniques. On Saturday evening, attendees interacted with a variety of legislators in roundtable discussion and engaged in activism activities for a variety of causes. Special JSA merchandise, like JSA pom-pom beanies and sweatpants, were sold over the course of the night. Come Sunday morning, debates resumed, including a Mock Supreme Court Case trial and a RISK-styled debate activity. Fall State opened and closed with a great deal of success, and political activity, thought, and education ran deep throughout the course of the convention.

Chapter Caucus

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A Modern Proposal: Kill Two Rockets with One Species

On one side of the world, humans are rabbits. Many of these rabbits live in run down shacks where each individual survives on scraps of food and drips of water. But what makes rabbits truly rabbits? They multiply a bit too much. Currently, the population in just Asia is over two trillion people with more than fifty percent living in poverty, and these numbers continue to grow. These poor humans are under the impression that the more people in the family, the more there are to work, and the more there are to work, the more money they make! This is what happens when you have uneducated rabbits. What happens when there are more people? The food demand increases. Silly rabbits. On the other side of the world, people are no longer rabbits. Now, they are civilized and know what will bring humanity forward! “Space exploration is the solution to the world’s problems!” they claim, “Even the poor will prosper!” NASA spends more than one trillion dollars on improving the world’s problems, approximately the same amount of people who are impoverished on the other side of the world. So far, others have failed to grasp this American logic. However, I have found the justification for this logic that has yet to be publicized! Continue reading

Elite but Inefficient

Currently, the way that we are approaching the process of placing young students into higher levels of education in prosperous school districts is ineffective. In already extremely advanced school districts, it is not necessary to separate young students, starting at the age of 8, into different classes and is hurtful to many other kids in these district. The platform of higher education in elementary and middle schools must be reformed to include more kids and be available at more schools. In many districts, especially in middle class suburbs, including District 203, District 204 in Illinois to districts in places such as Washington: Kennewick School District, have a program that includes their top 2%.  These programs are considered two years ahead of the “normal track,” however, this exclusive 2% must be expanded to include at least the top 10%. Some may say expanding the program will make it less elite and will not suite the students who are bored in the honors track, however, the difficulty will not be lowered, and the opportunity to learn at this level should not be elite. Additionally, kids that are bored at this level of education must receive supplemental material at home. To conclude, in the middle school and elementary school years, colleges are not looking at students’ distinguishments, so why are school districts giving such an inherent advantage to those who subsequently score well on standardized tests, giving them a 2 year advantage when starting high school in subjects such as math and already exposing them to advanced and rigorous coursework. Continue reading

Morton West Chapter Conference: Candy Court Con Recap

On October 29th, 2016 Morton West’s had their Chapter Conference titled Candy Court Con. Opening session included a skype call where JSA-ers were allowed to ask Estela Naula questions, which was Morton West’s guest speaker. They were also able to donate to her, and she received eighty nine dollars from generous contributions. Candy Court Con consisted of each block having Supreme Court Cases. Supreme Court Cases that were debated are Miranda v. Arizona and Roe v. Wade. Candy Court Con also had a Mock Trial which was based on the United States v. Texas court case. To conclude the chapter conference, JSA-ers participated in Chapter Olympics. Chapter Olympics had events such as apple bobbing and relay races.

~ Bianca Montoya