Meeting of the Minds: Generations discuss education, politics
Vaughn Delp-Smith said she'd like to see more done to encourage talented students to teach. She made the remarks during a meeting of the minds Wednesday between members of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Yavapai College and Shelley Bunch's Advanced Placement social studies class at Prescott High School.
"I read all the time that education in Arizona is tanking, yet I know Prescott High School has five Flinn scholarship winners," Delp-Smith said. "I tell people there is a good job going on right here."
Delp-Smith was one of more than 30 members of the OLLI who met in the library with high school students to discuss education, the economy, foreign policy, and the political system Wednesday afternoon just before the Republican presidential candidates' debate in Mesa.
"This has been a great way for the generations to connect, and it's something we've been doing for the past four years," Bunch said, noting that Turk Kangal with OLLI and school board member Joan Fleming have helped keep it going.
Prescott High School student Kevin Spillman told the group that his mother, who teaches at Miller Valley School, moved to a new grade this year with 33 students in her class.
"When you have 24 children in your class you can do your job well. When you have 36 you tear your hair out," said Lydia Garrett, who has worked in the education field and on school boards for the past 30 years. "I hear from older people we don't have to support this anymore, (that) our children graduated. But I tell them 'Yes, you do. It's the next generation and everybody depends on a good education.'"
As the talk turned to political parties, Bill Haas, an OLLI member, urged the students to pull together and work for change.
"There's so much hatred between the two parties that not much can get done," said Nick Vernon, a student, noting that politicians used to meet to hammer out compromises, but just meeting now can lead to a backlash from party members.
"The first time members of OLLI came they thought they'd be doing the teaching, but they were blown away by how well informed the students were," Bunch said. "One year the students and OLLI members enjoyed the discussion so much, they broke off into small groups and met for coffee throughout the year."
Ellis Rackoff, an OLLI member, asked whether the intrusion of technology has led to the loss of some good politicians.
"There used to be no cameras with us when a politician went golfing with you and they could talk with you freely," Rackoff said. "Do we really need all this information?"
Pat Mann, an OLLI member, urged students to use their critical thinking skills to research what politicians say, read the actual sources, make their own decisions and have research to back up their opinions.
Toward the end of the discussion, Kangal urged students to contact their leaders by phone, email or letters, noting that they keep spreadsheets of what their constituents tell them, and that it influences their decisions.
After the discussion was over, several groups of students and OLLI members kept up the conversation on the way out of the library.
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