Not everyone knows that most of MCHS’s students are respectful, professional individuals, but, at the Rotary Club’s World Affairs Conference at the Ivy Tech campus in Valpo, the representatives from my school proved this when we showed that we are, at least, capable of disagreeing with someone without bullying them.
A few months ago, I, along with a group of my peers, attended this conference. Students from schools throughout northwest Indiana attended to learn about the topic at hand, which was vaccines.
The conference started with a Q and A session with a doctor who specialized in vaccinations, and the questions got more and more hard-hitting as the session went on. One girl in particular repeatedly asked questions regarding the relationship between vaccinations and abortions. Specifically, she wanted to know why it is common for scientists to test vaccinations on the tissue of aborted fetuses.
I knew that she was pro-life, but, being someone who is pro-choice, I knew that this conference wasn’t the right time or place to criticize her or her opinions due to the fact that I was representing my school. Other pro-choice students from other schools, on the other hand, were extremely disrespectful. The students sitting in front of me were making fun of her opinions, her school, and even the way that she looked. My peers and I were astonished that students had the temerity to do and say such unprofessional things. Not only were they making themselves seem immature and rude, but they made their school look bad as well.
Had this been a debate, then those who simply rebuked her claims would have been completely appropriate, but this was not a debate. Not only that, but criticizing her appearance and her school is just unnecessarily rude. My fellow pro-choice peers and I listened to her questions, and we thoroughly considered everything she was saying. In fact, she made some really good points. Because we kept open minds and didn’t berate her, we learned new information about the topic.
Towards the end of the conference, all of the students were divided into breakout groups in which we were given questions about the topic to discuss. After we discussed them, two spokespeople from each group were to give a presentation in front of the entire conference. Another MCHS student and I were the spokespeople for two different groups, and, after we had given our presentations, we could comment on the presentations of other students. The pro-life student was also a spokesperson, and, while many people only criticized her presentation, the other MCHS student and I emphasized the stronger points of each presentation. Rather than attacking her claims, we made sure to focus on the aspects of each presentation that we thought that everyone should remember. That’s what this conference was about. We were there to learn new ideas about vaccinations, not to attack those whose opinions differ with our own.
Field trips like this are supposed to teach students new information and how to act in situations that they will probably encounter when they are adults in a professional environment. The way that those closed-minded students acted made me feel as though they were not learning anything. In a professional environment, one should learn to agree to disagree for the sake of their reputation and their school’s reputation.
This was featured in the Michigan City News Dispatch’s City Pride column.