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Paynesville Press - March 19, 2003

Students discuss possible war with Iraq

By Jennifer E. Johnson

Students in government classes at Paynesville Area High School recently debated a possible war with Iraq.

Pro-war poster With the United States on the brink of war with Iraq, teacher Jeff Youngs took time between units in their regular curriculum to delve deeper into the politics on the world stage. Initially, Youngs said, when he asked students if they felt pro-war, neutral, or anti-war, most were neutral.

Pro-war government students made this poster depicting Saddam opposite George Bush.

After learning more about the issues involved, both sections of the class - comprised mainly by seniors but also a few juniors - were asked to reassess their opinions to see if they had changed. Out of 35 students in both classes, 18 identified themselves as pro-war, 10 as anti-war, and seven as neutral.

The class then divided into like-minded groups to discuss and defend their positions. In addition, groups of students made posters depicting their stance. These posters were hung around the school.

To the surprise of Youngs' class, many of the posters elicited an emotional reaction both from fellow students and faculty.

Pro-war posters included themes like: They have bombs. We have bigger ones. and Time to fight. War is upon us. Some of the more graphic pro-war posters were taken down.

Senior Adam Leydendecker, whose father is an army reservist en route to Iraq, was among the pro-war contingent. He emphasized that it's not that he wants a war, but if it has to happen, he'd rather have his father home sooner than later. "People just need to be behind the soldiers," said Leydendecker.

Senior Eric Miller, also pro-war, said, "A lot of us feel that we are going to war no matter what happens."

Anti-war posters used themes like: Let's bomb Texas. They have oil, too. Let's bomb Cuba. They have a dictator, too. Another anti-war poster used a quote from Gandhi: An eye for an eye makes the world blind.

Anti-war poster Students against the war voiced concerns about the populace in Iraq and the complacency of some Americans. "It's such a sensitive topic for so many people." said senior Jake Johnson. "If so many people don't want it to happen, they need to stand up and say so."

As part of a government class discussion on the possible war with Iraq, PAHS students against the war designed this poster. Of 35 students in both sections of the class, ten identified themselves as anti-war.

"Why can't we find another way?" asked senior Danielle Lieser. "We'll be killing innocent people," she added.

On the neutral side, students seemed to weigh the benefits of regime change and disarming Saddam against the cost in human lives. One poster listed reasons for and against the war on opposite sides of a tombstone.

"I think either way you feel you have to keep an open mind about it," said junior Heather Fuchs, a member of the neutral contingent.

Senior Morgan Martinson, who has an uncle going to Iraq, also identified herself as neutral. "It's scary," she said. "He's going over there, and people are going to die."

Youngs, paraphrasing one of his students, said the the project intended to raise people's level of thought on this issue, which he thinks they did.

At the elementary school, students have been very concerned about the war and what exactly that means, according to principal Todd Burlingame. The topic, he said, has been raised by students in virtually every classroom.

"They want to know how war would affect us," said fifth grade teacher Berniece Voss, "and we don't know how to answer."

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