Forum Dives Into Controversial Topics
By LISBETH JUELA TENEMAZA and DANIELLE BRAVERMAN
From Trump’s America to the changing face of feminism, Forum, the social studies department’s magazine, talks about it all with no restraints or judgment in room 245 every Tuesday during period 9.
In last Tuesday’s discussion, Olivia Corrado ’20 created a presentation on the Post-truth era and social media’s contribution to it. Post-truth refers to discussions that are influenced more by emotional appeal than real facts.
“Because celebrities have a mass following, if they voice a single opinion, thousands follow blindly,” said Priya Sagar ’19 during the discussion. “They’re unintentionally manipulating people and wielding way too much power.”
Another discussion centered on Nike’s controversial hiring of activist and former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick to be their spokesman.
“I didn’t know a lot about the topic, but when we started discussing it, I saw both sides of the controversy and understood a little about the situation,” said William Malamud ’20. “It really interested me, so I started looking into it a lot more. If I hadn’t heard it in Forum, I wouldn’t have cared, but I realize that the issue is a lot bigger than Nike hiring an ex-football player.”
These are among some of the topics that will appear in Forum’s magazine this year. Copies will be made available at the end of May or early June. You can also get last year’s issue in the social studies department office on the second floor.
The club mostly consists of juniors and seniors but is open to anyone willing to discuss politics and other issues in a mature setting.
“Forum is for those who are willing to listen to the other side, not simply for those who believe they’re right,” said Zahra Bajwa ’19. “That’s Forum in a nutshell.”
In a typical Forum meeting, members begin by assembling desks into a horseshoe set-up so that a presenter has room by the Smartboard.
During the months of September to March, every member presents a topic they have interest in during their designated week.
“Before the presentation, I was nervous because I wasn’t sure how the group was going to respond to the points I was making,” said Corrado. “I was wary of the topic and how it would be perceived by everyone. But because of the atmosphere of Forum, during the actual presentation, I didn’t feel the pressure that I usually feel during these types of presentations. It was very open and honest.”
This feeling was shared by other students during their own presentations.
“I was very nervous the day I presented,” said Priya Sagar ’19. “I couldn’t finish my slides in time. All I had were index cards with bullet points of things I had found during my research. I felt like a mess. I made my way to the center of the room and shuffled my index cards on a desk.”
“All I really remember is that I talked a lot,” Sagar said, “and that I ended my presentation by waving my hand over the Asian continent on the map in the room and exclaiming, ‘And this whole thing is Asia.’ The room was filled with applause, and I knew that this was where I belonged. I felt accepted.”
After a presentation, it’s time to discuss. Forum discussions resemble an informal Socratic seminar with each person offering their own input and examples.
In the Post-truth era discussion, Sagar noted that “identity politics”—voting for someone based on their race, ethnicity, gender, or sexuality—is happening far more often because of the polarized atmosphere created by social media.
Toward April and May, members devote themselves to assembling the magazine by writing articles, songs, and poems about topics they’ve presented on or have found more of an interest in.
“I feel like what I’m writing matters in Forum, which is why it’s so motivating and important to me,” said Corrado. “The magazine gives students in Forum a platform to write about issues they care about, or topics that deserve more attention.”
In Forum, students can disagree without feeling resentful.
“It’s like ‘The Breakfast Club,’” said Corrado. “We’re all different, but we’ve all joined together to talk about politics and current and past events that have shaped what the United States is and was.”
Bajwa said, “Sometimes people won’t agree with you, and that’s totally fine. But the fact that, at the end of a meeting, you can walk out and you’re still friends is what makes Forum so special.”
Yasmeen Abuhammood ’19 said, “Forum is a family, a tightly knit group. That’s the only way to describe our vibe.”
Abuhammood and Bajwa are two students whose friendship blossomed in the club.
”I knew her [Bajwa] through a friend,” said Abuhammood. “But Forum is what really brought us together.”
Forum not only creates lasting friendships, it also helps you step out of your comfort zone.
“I was very shy,” said Bajwa. “Forum was one of the things that helped me start breaking out of my shell.”
Heading off to college can be a scary thing, but Sagar, a senior, expressed certainty that she will be okay because of all she’s learned in Forum and how it shaped her.
“I’ve never met a group of people so inquisitive, so kind, so tolerant, and so open-minded as the people I’ve met in Forum,” said Sagar. “I may forget every memory I have in high school, but I don’t think I could ever forget Forum.”
Forum has a rich history dating back to the fall of 1983, with magazines being published for over 30 years.
Mr. Eugene Resnick is the current Forum faculty advisor and has helped run the discussions in Forum for about 18 years.
Mr. Resnick took over Forum in 2015 after the previous advisor, Mr. Jeff Schneider, retired. Mr. Resnick had assisted Mr. Schneider as a co-faculty advisor since 2001.
“Forum is great exposure for students,” said Mr. Resnick. “The main goal is to get students to start thinking critically about the world we live in.”
Corrado said, “Making sure that the people going into the world as adults know about issues facing America right now is crucial for the future of American democracy. I’ll be 18 by the next presidential election, and I think it’s important to know where I stand, but also to know all sides of the issue so that I’m not completely blind to everything else but my own opinion.”
“That is what we learn to do in Forum,” she said. “It’s a great skill to have, not only in discussions, but in life.”