Both Sides Now: Student Forum Informs the Campus on State Measures
Students in a state and local government class presented a forum on the California ballot measures in the Loker Student Union today and on Tuesday, Oct. 8. Working in pairs, they discussed the pros and cons of hotbed issues including gay marriage, parental notification of abortion for minors and renewable energy. Their professor, Annie Wilson, wanted her students to focus on local issues as well as this year’s race for the presidency.
“Voting should not be thought of as a multiple-choice game on which you can simply guess,” she says. “I tell my students that it is very important to vote, but that they should never vote when they are uninformed about the issues. The propositions are important and can potentially drastically change the lives of Californians.”
Along with their presentation, students were required to write a paper explaining both sides of their designated issue.
“Seeing [both] sides, and checking the presented ideas to make sure that claims are factual helps them to see that there is more to making a decision than just staking out an opinion based on personal ideas or assumptions,” says Wilson.
First-hand experience with local government inspired Wilson to eventually teach political science. While leading a group to incorporate her hometown of Moffitt, Tex. into a city to avoid annexed by a larger city nearby, she realized “the enormity of government influence on our daily lives.”
“We wanted [our] town to remain an entity unto itself, to maintain its historical distinction,” she says. “It had been in existence since the early 1800s, but had never incorporated into an official, legally recognized city. The incorporation effort failed, but I gained an understanding of local government and politics, as well as an interest in civic engagement.”
Wilson says that exercises like the forum make the issues come alive for students on a more personal level, teaching them how the measures will affect their everyday lives.
“This is particularly true for the ballot propositions, especially if they are constitutional amendments,” she says. “I tell the students, ‘This is serious business. Be informed, know what you are voting for or against.’ Individual citizen awareness of the political world is essential to the maintenance of a free society.”
For more information on the California ballot measures, click here.
- Joanie Harmon
Photo above: Students in Annie Wilson's local and state government class examined the pros and cons of state propositions on the Nov. 4 ballot.
Pictured L-R: Corinne Valle, sophomore, liberal studies; Maritza Arizaga, junior, political science;
Consuelo Gonzalez, sophomore, criminal justice; Robert Font, senior, political science;
Janette Gutierrez, junior, liberal studies; Sandra Murillo, senior, liberal studies; Annie Wilson, lecturer, political science; Veronica Manzo, senior, history; Heidi Whisler, senior, liberal studies; Modesta Nunez, junior, liberal studies; Julia Trujillo, sophomore, political science
Photo by Joanie Harmon