When I look at the political landscape today, it’s hard not to get desperate.
The partisan game leads elected officials to vote with their teams rather than with what they really believe, because winning the next election is more important to them than doing the right thing. Even in “safe” states like South Dakota, you see elected officials pandering to voters.
It’s not a Republican or Democratic problem, it’s a partisan purity problem that infects both sides of the aisle. It’s not new, but it’s not getting better. In fact, it gets worse every day.
Sometimes it seems like voters and those they vote for are trading their morality and human decency for a place in the club.
But thanks to Rapid City Area Schools, my hope has recently rebounded.
Several teachers have incorporated the Journal into their lesson plans and seeing the work of these students from different grades and schools has given me the opportunity to see the intelligent and thoughtful work they create. I was able to speak with four English classes at Central High School during a journalistic writing section. Working with students to gather information and turn it into a story showed me how many talented students roam the halls of this school.
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Next, the Stevens High School Government and Politics class submitted their editorial cartoons for publication. It has become an annual mission that I look forward to. It’s hard to take an idea and express it well in one or two frames in a way that can convince. Editorial cartoons are far less common than they used to be, but few ways of expressing an idea are as effective or efficient.
Moving on to an even younger group, eighth graders in an advanced English class at East Middle School submitted letters to the editor. Don’t worry, the parents signed the consent forms before we received them.
It’s funny, when you feel like you have a chance to express yourself, the tendency is always to hit the highest possible note. Some of the kids wrote about the war in Ukraine, some talked about abortion, and some wrote about their thoughts on cannabis. Others discussed mental health issues at school and how Rapid City residents let school buildings decay.
My favorite thing about all of these classes and students is that they all used their own thoughts to formulate ideas and come up with solutions. None of them cited talking points from FOX News or MSNBC. They did not say what legislative leaders or the governor wanted them to say. You will love some of them and I bet a few of them will raise a few hairs.
I think that’s a good thing.
It’s also why I have a new favorite columnist. This kid is good. But I liked him long before he wrote op-eds for his high school newspaper. I was there when he was born.
My son likes to write humorous columns. He’s not afraid to hit a nerve, and he sometimes flirts with the prose a little too far. I have no idea where he got that from. I didn’t know it was genetic, but I never encouraged him to do that.
Believe me when I tell you, his opinions don’t always match mine. But I appreciate how he thinks and how he uses humor to make a point.
I hope all of our readers enjoy the opinions shared by local students through cartoons and letters to the editor. Some have conservative thoughts. Some lean more to the left. None of them are the cookie-cutter partisan response we’ve grown accustomed to.
They are the students, but we can all learn a thing or two from them.
Kent Bush is the editor of the Rapid City Journal. Contact him at [email protected]