QCHS students react to Capitol attack

On Wednesday after­noon and evening, High School Band teacher Frank Parker’s eyes were glued to his tele­vi­sion at the shock­ing visions of a mob vio­lent­ly tak­ing over the Capitol. The next morn­ing, as his Wind Symphony class began, he asked stu­dents if there was any­thing they’d like to talk about.

Instantly, he said, “hands went up.”

“They were amaz­ing,” Mr. Parker said of the con­ver­sa­tions. “Some were out­raged that some­thing like this could hap­pen in our coun­try. Others felt it wasn’t so sur­pris­ing or unex­pect­ed. But dur­ing the dis­course, stu­dents were very sup­port­ive of one anoth­er.”

Similar dis­cus­sions went on through­out class­rooms at Quakertown Community High School Thursday, a day after law­mak­ers were forced to hide and ulti­mate­ly flee the Capitol after a mob of sup­port­ers of President Donald Trump gained ille­gal entry to the build­ing.

“As we attempt to make sense of the world around us we each inter­pret last night’s events through the lens of our indi­vid­ual expe­ri­ences,” Principal Mattias van ‘t Hoenderdaal said. “Today, many of us are upset, angry, and con­fused. By pro­vid­ing a plat­form where our stu­dents are able to express their thoughts and feel­ings we have a unique oppor­tu­ni­ty to learn from the per­spec­tive of oth­ers.

“It’s not just about talk­ing, it’s about lis­ten­ing; not just about edu­cat­ing those who we dis­agree with, it’s about learn­ing from them. In the midst of this chaos we are pro­vid­ed a his­toric learn­ing oppor­tu­ni­ty in which stu­dents will con­tin­ue to devel­op their world­view through inquiry, in pur­suit of find­ing truth. I encour­age us to reflect, learn, and grow in our charge to devel­op our stu­dents into men and women of sound char­ac­ter and integri­ty. Today I am proud of our stu­dents. I am proud of our teach­ers.”

In Jason Anderson’s AP European History class, the teacher played the role of mod­er­a­tor, allow­ing stu­dents to share their thoughts and respond to things oth­ers said. The active con­ver­sa­tion includ­ed stu­dents seat­ed in the class­room and those attend­ing vir­tu­al­ly.

“What would you con­sid­er them, riot­ers or ter­ror­ists?” asked Mason Olivares, who answered his own ques­tion: “They com­mit­ted acts of trea­son. Let’s not beat around the bush. They’re ter­ror­ists.”

Andrew Boyer said “We’re at a cross­roads right now. But make no mis­take, this wasn’t a freak inci­dent. This didn’t start brew­ing four years ago.” He said the attack on the Capitol has been decades in the mak­ing. “Now they’ve been brought into the light,” he said.

Students also com­pared the National Guard’s response to an ear­li­er Black Lives Matter protest in D.C., with this week’s event of “middle-aged white men. Why didn’t they take more
pre­cau­tions?” one stu­dent asked. “Why didn’t this protest have the same prepa­ra­tion?”

Said Lanie Kalbach, “I argue that elect­ing Donald Trump pres­i­dent was the end of the Republican era. When we grow up, we’re going to be the left and we’re going to shift every­thing left.” She believes the death of George Floyd “was a huge cat­a­lyst” in the awak­en­ing of young peo­ple to pol­i­tics. It got “peo­ple think­ing about police, about the role of gov­ern­ment, how the sys­tem oppress­es peo­ple.”

Vaughn Vail said he holds views rep­re­sent­ed in both par­ties. “These protests are going to bring about a new order,” he said. “The GOP is on its last legs. The Republican Party is frac­tured. It’s unfor­tu­nate to see. But I’m not going to aban­don my views because the GOP has become a mon­stros­i­ty.”

Conner Ziegler, a vir­tu­al stu­dent, said “Social media has become so polar­ized. We’re going to grow up in a world with­out (polit­i­cal) mod­er­ates. We’re going to have extremes.”

After class, Andrew said he appre­ci­at­ed the oppor­tu­ni­ty for stu­dents to have a “healthy” dis­cus­sion. “When such major events hap­pen in our democ­ra­cy, I appre­ci­ate being able to dis­cuss them in a safe envi­ron­ment, where nobody gets out of hand and every­one is respect­ful. Our gen­er­a­tion will be the one to help solve this.”

Mr. Anderson said, “We’re all Americans try­ing to fig­ure it out. Offering stu­dents a forum to think crit­i­cal­ly in school is a respon­si­bil­i­ty I have. I’m not any­more intel­lec­tu­al­ly savvy than they are. I’m strug­gling as much as they are to make sense of it.”

Assistant Principal Adam Dinney, who over­sees the Social Studies depart­ment, said teach­ers did an out­stand­ing job “allow­ing the stu­dents to be front and cen­ter in today’s dis­cus­sions. It’s impor­tant for stu­dents to unpack what’s going on in the world. Certainly in these unprece­dent­ed times, hav­ing the will­ing­ness and abil­i­ty to have those con­ver­sa­tions real­ly helps stu­dents under­stand their feel­ings and real­ly helps us heal.”

During these con­ver­sa­tions, sev­er­al edu­ca­tors advised stu­dents to seek infor­ma­tion from more than one source. As Social Studies teacher Jonathan Pallone said, “If you only look at one show, we’re going to remain divid­ed.”

Assistant Principal Kim Finnerty, who heard the con­ver­sa­tion in Mr. Parker’s class, said “I Iove the idea of stu­dents being engaged in dis­cus­sions about their world and how divi­sive our pol­i­tics are. It’s vital­ly impor­tant that we teach respect­ful dis­course.”

As for Mr. Parker, he admit­ted that dur­ing his near­ly eight hours of TV time Wednesday, he spent some of it watch­ing the 76ers. After the game, he heard Coach Doc Rivers say, “This is America right now, and it’s bet­ter than it was 10 years ago. And it may not feel that way right now, but young peo­ple are engaged and they’re vot­ing, and it’s beau­ti­ful to watch.”