By Mary O’KEEFE
On Monday Congressman Adam Schiff paid a visit to Crescenta Valley High School at the invitation of teacher Alicia Harris and her advanced placement government class. About 50 students posed questions to the congressman covering issues from the country’s recognition of the Armenian Genocide to the polarizing political atmosphere. The students invited several politicians from the local and national arenas to speak to their class. Los Angeles Supervisor Mike Antonovich and Glendale councilmembers John Drayman and Laura Friedman also visited the class during the semester.
A day after Schiff’s visit Crescenta Valley Weekly went to Harris’ third period class to see what the seniors thought about the congressman’s visit. When asked what their impressions were of the different branches of the political world, the students responded in unison.
“They were all different,” they said.
“Drayman and Freidman were more down to Earth,” said Julia Adams.
“Antonovich seemed more like a politician,” added Ryan Choi.
“Schiff was a politician but was friendly,” added Dana Dowse.
About a quarter of the class is interested in a career in politics but they all had opinions of what role the government should play and what they expect of their elected officials.
“[The Glendale councilmembers] didn’t seem to have power,” Choi said.
“A lot of questions we asked, [Drayman] said he was unable to do anything and it wasn’t in his area,” Adams explained.
The seniors had asked questions concerning the school district and were told that was something the city council had little control over.
Harris explained to her class that there was a separation between the district and city.
They had some pointed questions for Schiff including the progress of recognizing the Armenian Genocide. Schiff has been a long time supporter of the U.S. government officially recognizing the genocide. A student asked why the process was taking so long.
“The way it works is if we take up the genocide [proposal] and don’t get the votes to pass it, then those who oppose the [recognition] will claim that the U.S. Congress voted that there was no genocide,” he said.
Schiff gave the students a glimpse into why things take so long in the state of California and Washington alike.
“We have a broken state government. You are all about to see that if you are going to college next year and will be facing much higher fees. If you are still here next year you will see class size increase and teachers laid off,” he said.
He added he was concerned about the effects the recession is having on education. He pointed out that the country was known for its citizen’s ingenuity however that will be diminished without the “best educated people.”
“We need to stop the funding [theory] of bust or boom,” he said.
The students had their own opinions about education.
“I think there is too much emphasis on the test,” Dana Dowse said.
Choi added that people who have the funds to take a pretest class on SATS testing have the advantage over those that cannot afford it.
“I know really smart people who don’t pass and then some really dumb people that get a 2000 on the test,” he added.
The students all agreed that the arts needed to be funded as well as class size reduction. The majority felt there should be an emphasis on practical classes like Regional Occupational Programs.
“I know this girl who is an AP scholar….All she knows is how to study her text books. She is really smart but doesn’t know anything about life. That is an example of someone who has been taught to the test,” said Hannah Gerald.
Matt Longpre added he thought the focus needed to be switched from memorization to practical learning.
“People loose interest when they forced to take a paper at face value and not add anything to it that is from them,” Longpre said.
The students were obviously aware of the political atmosphere. The class was made up of mix of conservatives, moderates and liberals. Most were more moderate with a few extreme views but they all shared views in a civil manner. A trait not associated with politics today, according to Schiff.
“Things have gotten extraordinarily partisan. [This weeks mid-term elections] is one of the most incivil elections I have seen,” Schiff said. “[That will not change] if people keep sending folks to Congress who throw [political] bombs at each other. I would like to see that change. … The climate [now] is so toxic is makes it hard to get anyone to work together.”
That civil change may need to come from students like those at CVHS. Many were interested in joining the political world.
For those interested in applying for an Internship for Congressman Schiff they can do so by filling out an application on the website http://schiff.house.gov/HoR/CA29/Students/Youth+Page/Congressional+Internships.