H-F students examine international issues at Illinois forum

  Members of the Homewood-Flossmoor High team
  that participated in the Illinois Humanities Council
  program are, seated from left, Phillips Payton, Kiara
  Ernst, Declan Cawley, Breanna Spight and Anna Lane;
  standing from left, Caroline Madden, Brianna Meyer,
  Dylan Smith, H-F teacher Scott Aronson, Alex Wright
  and Megan Connors.
(Provided photo)
 
Is genocide a moral issue? How should we work to reduce terrorism? Can we stop climate change? What do we do about illegal immigrants in the United States?
 
These and other major topics now being discussed internationally were in the spotlight when10 students from Homewood-Flossmoor High School joined with more than 100 students from high schools across the state for the Illinois Capitol Forum on America’s Future April 27 at Illinois State University. 
 
This was the 15th year H-F has participated, said teacher Scott Aronson, who is the faculty sponsor for the event. Student participants Declan Cawley, Megan Connors, Anna Lane, Caroline Madden, Brianna Meyer, Phillips Payton, Breanna Spight, Alex Wright, Dylan Smith and Kiara Ernst are in Aronson’s International Relations class.
 
“I don’t choose (who attends),” Aronson said. “Their classmates selected them, because they are the ones who always bring their A-game to class.”
 
At the event, the students were assigned to groups and had to discuss how they would get to a position ― from isolationist to interventionist and two positions in between ― on their topic.  After a set amount of time, the four breakout groups had to come together to develop a consensus on the topic.
 
Declan, a junior, and Phillips, a senior, were in the group discussing genocide. They examined four case studies about genocide that has taken place ― in Rwanda, Bosnia, Cambodia and the World War II Holocaust. 
 
“In my opinion, I think we should intervene to stop genocide with the help of other countries because I believe genocide is fundamentally wrong,” Declan said.  Phillips agreed, but said generally when presidents have the option to step in they find an excuse not to.
 
“I think really it needs to be more of a collaborative effort among the powers. It can’t just be the United States. I feel like we should share that responsibility with the rest of the world. I don’t think we can do everything effectively by ourselves and can’t afford it either,” Phillips added.
 
Caroline, a senior, was on a globalization panel. Her breakout group examined U.S. trade relations with only countries that benefitted the U.S. She recognized the position was protectionist.
 
Megan, a junior, was on the immigration panel. She said her group, assigned to argue removing immigrants, got into an argument with speaker Rev. Craig Mousin, a lawyer who founded and directed the Midwest Immigrant Rights Center. She remembers him saying the stance that immigrants cause crime rates to rise is a falsehood. Mousin said the number of immigrants involved in crime is very small, noting Americans are more likely to be a victim of a crime committed by a U.S. citizen.
 
Anna, a senior, said her group didn’t deny that climate change is happening. The group’s approach was how the U.S. should adapt to climate change.
 
Brianna Meyer, a senior, was on a panel examining terrorism and how countries can partner to intervene in planned attacks.
 
“For me, (this conference) reminded me why I am so interested in international relations. It is what I want to major in,” she said.
 
Phillips said the program “opened my eyes to other people’s points of view and showed me that everything isn’t as binary as I thought it was. A lot of topics I think are just right and wrong and I realized it wasn’t just that, and it’s like you always have to debate more options. It was interesting to see that people actually feel that way about those options.”
 
Aronson said knowing how interested H-F students are in these big international topics makes him proud, because he realizes the next generation will be prepared to step up to the challenges. 

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