Thursday, Nov. 24, 2011 | 2 a.m.
What do you think?
Were you a participant in a past Sun Youth Forum? Do you have an experience to share? Have your opinions changed? We’d like to know. Write a letter to the editor. Mail: Letters to the Editor, Las Vegas Sun, 2360 Corporate Circle, Third Floor, Henderson, NV 89074. Fax: 383-7264. Email: [email protected] You can look at the coverage of past Sun Youth Forums by going
In 1956, Las Vegas Sun Founder Hank Greenspun inaugurated the Sun Youth Forum, gathering high school students to discuss the issues of the day. He wanted to hear what students thought.
“Listen to youth, for theirs is a wisdom untainted by cynicism, unbounded by pessimism and full of bright hope for the future,” he said.
Ruthe Deskin, who was Greenspun’s longtime assistant and the coordinator of the forum for decades, said in 1987 that the program was “one day where youth can speak out openly and freely without any intimidation from the adults.”
Every year on the week of Thanksgiving some of the best and brightest high school students in Southern Nevada come together for the forum, and they are heard loud and clear. A look back at coverage of past forums shows that no matter the generation, students have confronted the issues head on.
In the early 1960s, students debated U.S. policy and the Cold War, which was growing hot. One student referred to some of the patriotic language of the day and said, “Patriotism isn’t something you have to stand up and shout about.”
In the late 1960s, students at the forum condemned hippies for being “self-centered,” debated Vietnam and discussed ways to make their views known through nonviolent protests.
Before and after the Supreme Court issued its landmark Roe v. Wade decision, students grappled with the issue of abortion, wondering if government had any role in the issue. During the Reagan administration, students questioned the Iran-Contra affair and explored U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. They also talked about AIDS, premarital sex and drug use.
Students have offered thoughtful, informed opinions and often have been ahead of adults on some issues. For example, at the first forum there was a suggestion that Clark County form its own juvenile court — years before such a court was created.
Cynics from decade to decade have often groused about how the next generation doesn’t measure up and can’t engage in the issues of the day. However, every Thanksgiving we find reason to give thanks for the students we see at the forum.
Although the issues have changed since the start of the forum, one thing has remained constant: There are many intelligent, engaged students in Southern Nevada who can articulate an opinion grounded in fact. This year was further proof of that. After Tuesday’s forum, an adult in the room remarked about how polite the students were, even when they were discussing some hot-button issues. The students listened, they let one another finish and when they disagreed they did so politely. Considering that what passes for debate today among adults, whether on TV or in the comments section of a website, is marked by personal attacks and a general lack of respect for others’ opinions, it is refreshing to hear that students can disagree without being disagreeable.
Perhaps adults should listen to the youth more often.