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Nipomo students ready for a night of parties — political parties

Juniors Ben Kohlbush, left, and Austin Simpson argue for the Common Party, a fictional political party their team created for their political studies class at Central Coast New Tech High School in Nipomo.
Juniors Ben Kohlbush, left, and Austin Simpson argue for the Common Party, a fictional political party their team created for their political studies class at Central Coast New Tech High School in Nipomo. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

If the Common Party rose to power in the United States, laws in all 50 states would become uniform — gun legislation, for example, wouldn’t continue to be a patchwork of laws across the country.

If the John Hobbes Party had its way, the government would not be too controlling, like forcing people to buy healthcare.

And under the Equal Rights Party, citizens would have right to vote directly on laws as well as international affairs.

These are just three of numerous fictional political parties devised by about 90 high school juniors in a political studies class at Central Coast New Tech High in Nipomo.

The students have studied the founding of the U.S. government and read about John Locke and Thomas Hobbes, two leading 17th century English political theorists.

Their teachers, Ryan James and Rachael Foe, have avoided using the terms “Republican” and “Democrat,” instead prompting the students to think about their position on individual, and sometimes controversial, issues.

The students have worked in teams to form their own political parties and are currently presenting their platforms to classmates.

On Thursday, they’ll attend a school event at the Dana Adobe in Nipomo — the school’s first “Salon Night,” a mixer that community members are invited to attend and talk to students about our government, how it works and how we can respectfully talk about it.

“We’re trying to make politics not taboo for one night,” James said.

Added Foe: “And raise the level of discourse.”

The free event will also feature food and kid-friendly drinks. It runs from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Dana Adobe, 671 S. Oakglen Ave.

Students should be well prepared for questions by the time they get to the event, if a class period on Monday is any indication. Students listened to their peers present and then picked apart their platforms with probing questions.

If not everyone has to buy health care, one student asked the John Hobbes party, how does someone pay a hospital bill?

“We’re not saying people shouldn’t have health care,” student Mark Hilbert responded. “You just shouldn’t force people to buy it.”

The Common Party group proposed letting citizens in each state vote on laws, with the majority vote in each state determining that state’s position on an issue. Then, whatever a majority of states decides would become law for all of the states.

Wouldn’t that create an even greater two-party split, one student wondered, if all of the states were evenly divided on an issue?

“It would be trial and error,” Ben Kohlbush acknowledged.

A fellow Common Party member, Austin Simpson, said the class work has changed his view on government, which he use to refer to as “the government.”

“Now I call it ‘our government,’” Simpson said. “It’s not just the Congress or the president — it’s us, the people. If we do want change, it’s about us.”

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