46 percent of likely U.S Voters approve of President Trump’s job performance while 52 percent disapprove, according to Rasmussen Report’s, the Daily Presidential Tracker, from the week of September 28. This statistic has been flip-flopping for a considerable amount of time. The divisive behavior shown regarding the topic of elections 2020 alone has only been a fraction of the division in the United States. From wildfires to elections, to Black Lives Matter, the division seems endless. Eastern Christian High School however, has a different vision for what it truly means to be united, and is putting that vision to practical application.
Eastern Christian has established something that has never been established before; homerooms for high school students. Homeroom’s purpose is to find a way to communicate in which all voices are important and valued. Their key goals are to build “community through connections,” discuss “current issues,” form “communication skills,” and to “have fun” according to the homeroom agenda. In an interview with Mr. David Intlekofer, the principal of Eastern Christian High School, there were many topics spoken on, including but not limited to, the year 2020 as a whole, political sensitivity, and how to handle difficult situations and conversations.
There are many ways one could describe 2020 and all that it entails. When asked how he would describe what’s happening in the United States in his own words, Mr. Intlekofer said,
“Our country is being forced into a period of self reflection. That makes it sound much calmer than it actually is, but I feel like all the things in 2020 are coalescing into one ‘we really need to think about what we want our country to be’. The pandemic was a big instigating factor in all of this, but so many branch offs have come from that. So, yes, our country has gotten more divisive and is being forced into a period of self reflection.”
With this self reflection in mind, the conversation turned a tide to the newly installed homerooms for Eastern Christian High School students and the process of that. “When we went remote in March,” said Mr. Intlekofer, “it was pretty clear that we needed to think strategically about keeping community connections strong in the fall. We were thinking how we won’t have these relationships we’ve built on over the spring semester. How do we make time in the schedule to have these difficult conversations that are not necessarily academic? How do we make space for the tense election year, how do we talk about the racial reconciliation that’s happening in our country? All of those things we aren’t gonna talk about in biology, or chemistry every day, so we have to have a space for this to happen.”
When asked about the desired purpose and end goal of homerooms, Mr. Intlekofer said, “We want the homeroom to be a ‘brave space’ to build relationships that honor each other through open conversations. With all the crazy things that are happening in the world, the students need a place to talk. And what better way is there to train students to become active citizens in the world than to live with divisive disagreement, but do so in a way that honors God?”
With all of the “divisive disagreement” in the world we live in today, Mr. Intlekofer said his advice for political sensitivity and civil discussion, “Empathy is the most important skill in today’s society. Understanding that people have a different perspective than yours and that does not mean that they are a worse or better person than you. My advice is to listen, but listen to hear and not to form your response and ‘win’. We all in the grand scheme, have the same mission of bringing God’s kingdom closer to earth. If we can remember we have a greater goal than disagreeing in politics I think that would help.”
When asked how he has seen students at Eastern Christian High School rise above their inevitable political differences and disagreements, he said, “I’ve seen sports teams, where the kids disagree and fight in the classroom about certain issues and then they go out into the court or the field and they are united. They play well together even if they “hate each other” and that’s really interesting to watch. When there’s that mission or that goal to achieve beyond the disagreement you can rise above it.”
When asked if he had any advice to students on the topic of political sensitivity, Mr. Intlekofer said to “plan out how to react when someone disagrees with you, ‘What am I gonna do when someone kneels for the anthem?’ ‘What am I going to do when someone tells me that the candidate I love is an idiot?’ Whatever the comment is, it's important to think through it. So when those situations happen you have a respectful and loving response, instead of that gut reaction that might put a wedge between you and them. People don’t usually plan ahead for those disagreements because they are uncomfortable, so they just stick with people who agree with them always, and that’s not very smart. It's important to have a diversity of opinion, it sharpens you and it makes you understand your own beliefs better. I think it's so important to plan ahead so that you don’t get heated up. Once the emotions kick in, you’ve lost any chance of growing yourself or helping that person.”
When asked if he had any final thoughts, Mr. Intlekofer said, “It's going to be a tough year, we already know that. It's going to be politically divisive. My encouragement is actually our theme for the year [Micah 6:8 “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”] When we are talking about our political beliefs and things that are divisive, a posture of humility is the most important thing. It's not about me winning; it's never been about winning. Take a posture of humility because that’s what Christ did.”