Op-Ed Contest: Finalists

(Sorted by last name)

School Shootings & Gun Control

By Julia Girgis (‘25)

As citizens of the United States of America, we are extraordinarily blessed. Whether we realize it or not, the saying, “count your blessings,” is a lot more relevant than we think. Even the simple things, such as a trip to the grocery store, going to school, and visiting family are privileges that not everyone is granted. That is why America is great. That is why we are one nation under God, and why we believe in justice and indivisibility for all. However, we live in a society where there are many dangers within our community. Whether it is kidnapping, human trafficking, abuse, or even mass murder, we cannot deny that any of this is nonexistent. One particular issue in America is how common school shootings are, which is scarring for many people all over the nation. That is why gun control must be enforced to keep our communities safe.

First of all, school shootings are no joke. Although schools do their part by directing students during drills, these precautions are rarely enough. Students all over the country should never have to fear coming to school, and they should feel comfortable in their learning environment. Even though we can never predict what can happen, we should be willing to take action and protect those around us. By enforcing gun control laws, we can be closer to a safer reality. Some people argue that the second amendment protects rights to firearms and other weapons, and therefore, they should be allowed to own them.  However, during the District of Columbia v. Heller Supreme Court case on June 26, 2008, Justice Antonin Scalia presented an interesting point. He claimed, “Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited… nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.” This quote shows that although citizens have the right to firearms, that by no means gives the idea that the privilege is unlimited. Many different things are present in our daily lives, and they must be used responsibly, and with a careful touch. Guns are very dangerous when not used correctly, which is why our government must make sure this weapon is in the hands of a responsible owner. It is not only their duty, but the protection of our students is necessary for our communities and future generations alike. 

Furthermore, I believe that the rights to a gun are not as important as our safety. Disaster has struck in the past, resulting in mourning families and an agitated world. Are guns worth that risk? As stated before, this argument is not suggesting removing the right to a firearm. The majority of people that own a gun are accountable owners that appropriately use their weapon. However, not everyone makes the right choices, which leads to unerasable consequences for all to bear. Because human lives are much more valuable than the rights to a gun, enforcing more gun laws will decrease the number of deaths caused by a gunshot. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, children and adolescents being killed by guns are barely second to car crashes, the leading cause of death for this age group. To add on, the American Journal of Public Health also states, “legal purchase of a handgun appears to be associated with a long-lasting increased risk of violent death.” If this is the case, then we must lower that risk at all costs. If our children grow up in a world where violent deaths are common, how will future generations stay safe? How can we live in a great nation when there’s violence on every corner? Our students shouldn’t have to put up with this. Because it is clear how necessary gun enforcement is, the only action that can be done to improve the situation is to add new firearm laws, making sure that our communities as a whole are safe.

In conclusion, school shootings and other catastrophes have been seen in the past. Although this truth cannot be hidden, this doesn’t mean all hope is lost. As a community, we make sure that we keep each other safe. As a nation, we want our government to come to the best conclusions during any situation. School shootings are a reality, but they don’t have to be. When enforcing gun laws, not only are we saving lives, but we are making the world a better place for generations to come. Only then will we truly be proud to call ourselves Americans. Because even though we seem to have it all, one thing is for certain– the idea of peace will make our nation just that much sweeter. When taking this idea and making it an actuality, then we can all say in one united voice, “God bless America!”

The Crime of Voter Suppression in America

By Jaxson Kaplan-Rudolph (‘25)

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” These are some of the founding principles of American democracy. Since the beginning of our country, to varying degrees, there have been laws in some or all places of America to stop people from voting. Even from the foundations of America, the stain of voter suppression is still in place. Now is the time to change that. Lawmakers swore to uphold a document that contains these words, promising liberty for all. Ask yourself this question: how can people’s natural rights be observed if the government cannot make voting equal to all?

It is imperative that lawmakers work more for the people, not for themselves, especially around the idea of voting rights. It is nauseating that some representatives attempt (or even succeed) to change voting rules simply to make sure that they get reelected. It’s a fact that state bills such as those passed in Georgia recently are designed to strengthen gerrymandered boundaries, “intentional” or not. If the red lining and unfair district distribution that comes from a long history of systemic racism is strengthened by laws like those recently passed after the 2020 election, discrepancies between lower class and minority communities only grow, and the politicians whose policies are against the lower class and/or minority populations stay in power; we are stuck in a never ending loop of stripping rights from whoever these unjust lawmakers feel like stripping rights from.

John Kavanaugh, a GOP lawmaker in Arizona, tried to justify these voter suppression techniques by arguing, “It is the quality of the vote that matters.” Why do you get to determine quality? As Timothy Bella writes in the Washington Post, this can be seen as a Jim Crow relic at this point, akin to the “Grandfather clause” at voting polls in the South after the civil war, where they claimed you could not vote if your grandfather couldn’t vote, which of course clearly targeted former slaves. This idea of “pseudo equality” where those in power can fauxly exude fairness while having policies that are, in practice, so clearly discriminatory that the clear evidence is impossible to refute, is something that repeats again and again, and needs to stop. Saying “the quality of the vote matters” is saying “some people’s votes, and therefore, some people, are higher quality than others.” This is also indirectly saying that quote unquote ‘lower quality’ (for which Mr. Kavanaugh clearly means ‘non-white’) people should not get a vote. Assuming that all of these people should not be able to vote, simply because Mr. Kavanaugh and some other members of Congress think their voting might be suspicious, is discriminatory, because the Congressmen are inherently thinking that people who don’t vote for them, or people who aren’t their target audience, or even just people they think are inferior, are voting illegally. Isn’t America based on the idea that everyone has equal, or at least equitable, say in the government? This deconstruction of the basic right to determine who makes our decisions for us is blasphemy towards any idea of democracy.

To conclude, voter suppression is a horrific stain on our democracy, and in my opinion, no other policy problems in America can be solved until we stop this first.

Participation Awards

By Cyrus Schoneman (‘25)

Participation awards are the one of the worst inventions to grace the human race.  The idea of giving someone an award for something they did not succeed in is ridiculous. It teaches us to accept failure and that we should be rewarded for it.  But in reality, this idea creates an expectation that we will be praised and receive rewards when in reality, we won’t.  

Participation awards were created to make us believe that we were great and to boost self-esteem with the idea that if they told kids they were great, they would do great things.  But if we tell every single person they are great, who are they going to look up to and idolize?  If we believe that we are great at everything we do, then there is no reason to get better at those things.  The consequences caused by the affirmations of a participation trophy far outweigh the benefits they may bring. However, there is a different side to this debate.  

Lots of people believe that the idea of rewarding a child for doing something is good because it encourages them to try harder later in life.  This may be true, but if you were always winning as a kid, as soon as you lose, you are going to feel absolutely crushed by the fact that you didn’t win and were not rewarded for it. Studies that show how participation trophies are beneficial are all short-term, as they increase the chances of them coming back to do more activities, but they do not mention what may occur once these kids are no longer participating to get trophies. 

When the end-goal becomes a job or something else in life, if the same kid that was told that they will always be rewarded, and is not rewarded, how do you think they will feel about the loss?   The amount of demotive that this creates is utterly ridiculous for the short-term “benefits” it generates as it causes kids to end up quitting later in life, rather than in childhood sports when it had a much smaller impact on their life and career.  

Imagine being told that when you do something, even if you fail, it is good.  It creates not an incentive to fail, but an acceptance of the failure.  And when we accept failure, we have lost our drive to become better, and to advance our abilities and current position.  I simply don’t see how the idea of being successful in everything you do is something you would want to be told.  Failure is a common thing in life, and I believe that we should all learn how to fail.

Abortion

By Mya Schultheis (‘25)

“My body, my choice,” a common phrase I heard when I was younger so much that it was planted in my head. I had never heard anything different or never understood why anyone would want to “take control of women” or “tell someone else what to do with their body”. My young curious self, googled, researched, and listened to debates, trying to find the reason on why anyone would be “pro life”. Until one day, I found my answer. 

Circling back to where this all started, “My body, my choice.” When in reality, it isn’t your body at all. Your body does not consist of twenty fingers and twenty toes. Your body does not consist of two heartbeats and two sets of lungs. The truth of the matter is that it’s not really YOUR BODY. This body is a totally separate one from your own, with its own set of DNA and bodily organs. The baby may be IN your body, but it is not a part of your body. If it was your body, you’d be the one being aborted. Once one begins to realize this, the pieces tend to fall into place. 

Killing another human being out of your own convenience has never been morally right. Legality does not equal morality. Scientists have proved over and over again that life begins at conception, plain and simple. According to SSRN, 95% of scientists have agreed to state that life begins at conception. The moment that baby is conceived, the moment it’s life begins. The definition of a fetus is an unborn offspring of a type of mammal. The definition blatantly shows the fact that a fetus is a baby. An offspring is not a clump of cells. An offspring is a baby. A baby is a person. And murder? Murdering is the unlawful act of killing another human being. A fetus is a living baby, a living person, completely backed up by science. 

Another lie taught in the abortion industry is how the baby is “a clump of cells” or “isn’t alive”. Both are completely disproved by science. A fetus is not a clump of cells; a fetus is a baby with value. A baby with a heartbeat. Each year, millions of babies are crying out for help, being tortured by abortion. So far into 2021, there have been over 31 million abortions, with the number going up by seconds. 31 million lives lost. 31 million babies that were just violently lost to abortion. An abortion is a medical procedure of getting rid of a pregnancy. This medical procedure has multiple different ways of going about itself. One of them includes suctioning out a baby, tearing the child into pieces, and killing it. Another way to end a pregnancy is by going in and ripping out the child’s limbs one by one. Each and every way that abortion is done, a child is brutally killed and a life is ended. 

Pro abortionists will tell you that the group of pro lifers is made up of old White Christian men who only think what they think because of religion. However, they have never been more wrong. Pro life is pro Black. Pro life is pro woman. Pro life is pro life, no matter a person’s religious beliefs. I do not need my religion to know that murdering millions of innocent human beings each year is wrong.  

The abortion industry constantly teaches lies. Messed up, cruel, evil lies. Lies that a baby born with down syndrome has no value. According to Tennesean, 67% of pregnancies in the US where it is predicted that the baby would have down syndrome, the child is aborted. Lies that because a child is unwanted, or a mistake, their life does not matter. Wantedness does not determine value. A human is a human, no matter how small. Right Dr. Suess? Lies that abortion empowers women. According to Live Action Org, following an abortion women are 155% more likely to commit suicide, 110% more likely to abuse alcohol, 81% more likely to have mental problems, 37% more likely to have depression, and 34% more likely to develop an anxiety disorder. Abortion does not empower women. It hurts them. Pro life is pro women.

An argument I’ve heard really often on abortion is, “worry about yourself, this is my life, it’s not your business, why should you care?” Would you step in and help if you saw a child was being abused? But if it’s not your life, why would you care? See how that works and how often we fall into that trap? As humans with a moral scale, we’re inclined to care about others and their moral wellbeing. 

Another argument thats said quite often is, “Don’t like abortions? Don’t get one.” Don’t like slavery? Don’t buy a slave. Don’t like child abuse? Don’t abuse a child. Don’t like murder? Don’t murder anyone. 

Abortion is not a human right. It takes AWAY a human’s right to live. Killing a human because you’re not ready for a child teaches women pure irresponsibility. 

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” Without the right to life, our human rights have no meaning. You cannot claim that you fight for human rights without fighting for the right to life. The right that each and every person has value, wanted or unwanted, the right that every person is created equal, the right to LIVE. Choose life, your parents chose it for you.

French Secularism should not mean Islamophobia  

By Tasneem Sunbulli (‘25)

French secularism is not an excuse for Islamophobia. Secularism is the idea of separation of church and state. In modern day France, I feel they have gotten confused, as they seem to think that means they can discriminate between religions they don’t like. French senators continuously try and push for laws and amendments that target the large Muslim population specifically. 

This summer they tried to push a hijab ban, pushing for girls under 18 to not be allowed to wear hijab in public, and Hijab friendly swimwear to be banned from public pools and beaches. Although this law wasn’t fully passed, the remnants of this law were France banning small forms of the hijab. French senators did approve the amendment for minors not wearing hijab, which does not make it a law but speaks volumes about the priorities of French senators. The age of consent in France stands at 15, but for a woman to choose to cover her hair she has to be 18? Let that sink in for a second. A teen can engage in sex, which can change the rest of the teen’s life in way like, teen pregnancy and acquiring a permanent STD. Teens are mature enough for that, but can’t make the decision to cover their hair? 

The bill that actually went through made it so optional Islamic face covering was prohibited. The French government said this was a forced practice, calling it backwards and sexist. Then decided to force people to assimilate to traditional French social norms. It’s almost ironic that they claimed people were forcing things on women, and then forced something on women. Have they not realized that just how it’s wrong to force someone into wearing the hijab, it is also wrong to force someone out of it?

This is not even the most recent instance of Islamophobia in France. A French writer who is getting ready to run for president in France has recently expressed his dislike for Muslim names “What upsets me is that after three generations, people are still calling their children Muhammad” says Zemmour (arab news). Zemour is calling for a ban on traditionally Muslim names. Zemour has even stated that if he won the election he would restore a law that only permitted names from the Christian calendar of saints. Now what do French secularists have to say about these beliefs? 

To the French government, I would like to remind you secularism means religious freedom for everyone, not treating your Muslim population as extremist, stereotyping and targeting them. I want to praise the Muslims of France for their strength and perseverance against their government. I push for more people to be concerned about this and not turn a blind eye to an issue, and that although this opinion focuses on France, a good portion of Europe is following their lead.

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