Students encouraged to learn from graduation dispute

Posted: Tuesday, February 08, 2005

It is encouraging to hear about the KCHS seniors engaging an issue of importance to them — the site of their upcoming graduation. Asserting one's independence and defining one's identity is a promising indication of youth moving into adulthood. Being willing to contribute your opinion is a sign of that process. One of the essential benefits the next generation brings to this community is a new set of eyes, new ideas, a fresh perspective.

While you are learning to think for yourself and speak your mind, please also consider something of more lasting consequence to your future and ours than the place you graduate. As you struggle with this issue, think about the way you work things out with those who see things differently than you do, because difference is something you will run into all of your life. Heated discussions in the hallways, petitions, vote wrangling, trying to gain influence — this is not new thinking. This is the same old power game you remember from the playground and have seen adults act out in school contract negotiations and partisan politics. It seems to stem from assuming that we are right and anyone who has a different idea is wrong. How did we become so all-knowing? This does not serve us well. It strains relationships, pits neighbor against neighbor, limits our creativity in finding solutions, and wastes our energy.

If there was ever a need for fresh thinking, this adversarial mindset is it. Our culture has done things this way for so long we imagine that it is the only way, but it is not. The Dena'ina people who lived on the land underneath the Soldotna Sports Center and the KCHS auditorium not so long ago could teach us something about what it means to be a community, to think, speak, and act for the good of everyone and not just for yourself, your ideas, or your "side." What would this graduation site dispute look like if there were no sides, if everyone worked together to figure out what was best for all, and no one imagined that they already knew? How would the rest of your life change if you approached every disagreement in that way? Of course, you have no control of others, but you do have full control of your own choices, and whether you will be part of that change.

It is the hope of every generation that those who follow us take the good things we have learned and make it better, taking us to the next level. That's your job, that's our prayer. Thanks for listening.

Curt Shuey, Kenai



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