Newport Students Share Thoughts With, Challenge Rep. Gomberg
Last month, I received a packet of letters from Mr. Scarberry’s Advanced Social Studies class at Newport High School. I was impressed and asked if I could meet these remarkable young people. A few days ago I had the opportunity and distinct pleasure to speak with 50 sophomores and seniors in the school library.
I began our discussion by asking each student to briefly write down something that I’m too old to know about high school. I also asked them to tell me what they would focus on if they were a state legislator.
The results were revealing. They spoke to the stress of high school life, the challenges technology and social media bring to the classroom, and of concern for others and the world outside of school. Some were serious and some light-hearted. And not surprisingly, many comments focused on testing and performance standards being applied in Oregon schools.
Here are a few excerpts from the notes I received on school curriculum:
• Constant changes in the standards and grading systems are hard on students and should be eased into.
• Students cheat on exams because our system values grades more than students value education.
• The grading system has changed. Homework does not count to our grade. We are not allowed to have extra credit. Only standards and tests count to our grades.
• High school has become harder and we are expected to be smarter. Algebra I used to be the highest and now I need Algebra II and Physics. In this age, we need to be smarter to get somewhere in life.
• Our schools are lacking. Exchange students have told me school is so much easier in America.
• I really hate common core standards. I do all my homework but I don’t test well. Tests don’t represent our learning or achievements.
• Even band class has standard tests.
Some students also expressed concerns that our schools are underfunded:
• Newport High School offers insufficient fine and applied art electives limiting our college/university opportunities and our development as a whole.
• The drinking fountain in the strength training room isn’t cold any more.
• My school has had a hole in the roof for several years, yet we recently remodeled. I’m no expert in construction, but a hole in the roof at a public school in a rainy climate seems more important than a fresh coat of paint.
• Improve the amount of money that goes to education. I believe that education is one of the most important things to help insure the future.
They expressed frustrations typical of young people, but reflective of our culture today: Technology is so overwhelming.
• No one doesn’t have a phone.
• Some students try to be like people they see on TV and lose their identity. When people accomplish being above others appearance-wise, they judge others.
• There is a technology addiction. We are always on our phones even if it’s not allowed. People mostly text, Snapchat, Tweet, and Facebook.
Above all, despite sincere and differing political opinions, they expressed a strong dedication to helping build a prosperous and inclusive society, even if they disagreed on how:
• I would look into the lives of single parents and attempt to help those families. I’m sure they all struggle and don’t get some luxuries of a two-parent situation.
• I support marriage equality for the LGBT community. I believe it is important to give every Oregon citizen equal opportunity to marry who they wish.
• Do more to help homeless people.
• Fight for gun rights.
• I would help the fishing industry grow and make is easier for commercial fisherman to fish.
• I would work on trying the bridge the gap between Democrats and Republicans.
• Work on making life easier for small business owners and entrepreneurs.
It was a pleasure to hear their opinions and share my perspective of Oregon’s state government. The kids were not shy. During the hour I spent with them I was asked about health care, the welfare system, marriage equality, and support for our fishing industry, GMO foods, senior property tax deferral, class sizes, college tuition costs, and more. These young people were a demanding, engaged, and well-informed audience.
The students of Newport High were as tough an audience as I have met in a while and I was pleased to share some ideas and hear their concerns. They are a credit to their teachers and parents. I look forward to the near future when each will become a full participant in our vibrant community.
Rep. David Gomberg
Oregon House District 10
900 Court St NE H-371
Salem, OR 97301