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The Cal Poly Democrats and Cal Poly College Republicans held a public debate on Friday, March 13. The two sides focused on Common Core in the American education system, income inequality, minimum wage and police brutality.
Students seated themselves along a spectrum of how they identified politically. No one person’s attitude completely reflected that of the political party they affiliated with or all the members of each club, Cal Poly Democrats president and economics senior Daniel Estes said.
“We definitely don’t want to make things where it’s like, ‘this is the Democratic position’ and ‘this is the Republican position,’” Estes said.
The first topic debated was Common Core, which both sides agreed is not the right solution to education problems in America. Cal Poly College Republicans member and political science junior Annalee Akin said individuals think too differently for there to be one standard for everyone to meet.
“There are too many people at different levels; there shouldn’t be one thing that the whole grade and only that grade learns,” Akin said.
Some participants thought that Common Core puts limits on states and takes away the ability to progress. Others said states have the options of whether to implement the Common Core, and the option of implementing their own curriculum is still available.
It was argued that the Common Core teaches students how to pass a test and does not encourage long-term learning. In response, many conservative students said that molds students’ study habits and the motivation and ambition they bring to the classroom.
On the issue of income inequality, there was a clear difference of opinion on the effects regarding the individual as well as companies.
“There will never be a perfect society where everyone makes the same amount,” Akin said. “Income inequality is a necessary evil in capitalism.”
Reasons as to why income inequality was thought to be essential are that having disparity creates incentive to work harder to become just as successful, and success is correlated to hard work. Despite this, many affiliated with left-wing opinions said this is not always the case because not everyone is given the same opportunities in life to have the tools to succeed.
Participants retaliated against the idea of hard-working individuals falling on hard times and piggybacking on the efforts of other hard workers. However, industrial technology sophomore Steven Pardo noted it’s more than just about the individual worker — it’s a social issue. The gap of income inequality continues to grow and the issue is based on people’s behavior as a society.
“(Income inequality) is worth acknowledging if we want to alleviate the forecasted social issues of our generation,” said Pardo.
In addition to income inequality, the topic of minimum wage came up.
“Minimum wage is not necessarily the solution to income inequality. I don’t think it’s generally a good solution, although it sounds good in theory — magically everyone gets paid more. That money has to come from somewhere,” Cal Poly Republicans member and computer science sophomore Liam Kirsh said.
According to Kirsh, if wages were to rise, so too would product prices and layoff rates. Estes argued back that an increase in wages is more than the price increase, so workers do receive a net benefit. Research suggests that there are minimal effects on employment.
Those identified as having left-wing beliefs claimed that people cannot live off of minimum wage. Students leaning toward the right reminded the crowd that most people on minimum wage are above the poverty line. There also appeared to be a disconnect regarding what people really need.
The last subject discussed was police brutality. Not whether it was right or wrong, but the amount of rights law enforcement have and the extent to which they are allowed to enforce them. Liberals tended to argue that there was no reason for police to have military-grade weapons due to innocent people being easily affected by police response.
Some right-wing students thought the strength of a police force shouldn’t be restricted just because it makes people uncomfortable. Police brutality isn’t solely because of the weapons officers have, they argued. It is more due to over-responding to potential threats.
Liberal students said police make more rash decisions because of their access to these weapons.
Conservative students mentioned that no one knows what it is like to be in the situations police officers are put into and how they would react. A problem identified by both parties is that such issues are continually placing civilians and cops against each other.
Topics such as the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, Deltopia, St. Fratty’s Day, Walmart and Wall Street all arose in the four main discussions within the debate between Cal Poly Democrats and Cal Poly Republicans.