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In mock debate, AHS seniors take on state, national issues without mockery

The event Wednesday, Nov. 2, was called a mock presidential debate, but two political groups from Arlington High School offered views that parallel some on the national stage. The difference? Civility reigned.

Four seniors held forth -- two from the Young Democrats Club and two from the Teenage Republicans Club.

Audience members were able to come into ACMi Studio B, across from AHS, to watch, as the Arlington cable-TV studio also broadcast a livestream to YouTube, with almost 100 people tuned in.

The Democrats were represented by Adam Deakin and Jake Tamir-Pinsky; Republicans were represented by Ben Jacey and Erik Tsaousidis. Moderating the debate was Tarangana Thapa, also a senior at AHS.

The debate began by covering the four state ballot questions for the upcoming election. Both parties agreed that marijuana (Question 4) should be legalized, and that the state should not allow 12 new charter schools in Massachusetts (Question 2).

Jacey explained that our public schools are already severely underfunded, and charters would take money away from traditional public schools. Tamir-Pinsky added that taxpayers need more money in education budgets, not less.

When the Democrats said they believed farm animals should be given more living space (Question 3), Jacey argued that this would cause a significant rise in the price of meat.

Differences about top national candidates

After the ballot questions, Thapa asked the debaters to explain whether and why they support their party's top candidates. Deakin said the Young Democrats Club supports Hillary Clinton, because they agree with her plans to close tax loopholes, form coalitions to defeat ISIS, repeal Citizens United, the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision on corporate campaign contributions; fund Planned Parenthood and place more limitations on firearms.

Perhaps surprisingly, Jacey said he would not vote for Donald Trump, because "we're conservative students, but we're conservative students in Arlington, Massachusetts." Jacey later explained that many Arlington Republicans may find Trump too extreme. However, he agreed with Trump's stance on minimum wage, claiming that a higher minimum wage will hurt small businesses.

Tsaousidis stated that minimum wage is not meant for working adults and should be for teenagers doing menial jobs. Deakin used this to shift over to the topic of college, saying that "the price of college is prohibitive for many students, the only limit to your ambition should be your ability to work hard."

Immigration was perhaps the most debated topic. Tamir-Pinsky wanted to allow Syrian refugees to come to the United States, despite the possibility that a few may be terrorists. He argued that with stricter gun laws, these terrorists will not be able to commit acts of terrorism.

Discussion of refugees

Jacey was willing to allow refugees into the country, but he said that they should not be treated as American citizens and "the fact that illegal immigrants receive the same benefits as American citizens is unacceptable." Tsaousidis backed up Jacey by talking about his own family's experience coming to the United States, an anecdote that was meant to show that a law-abiding immigrant can easily obtain citizenship.

The Republicans acknowledged the issue of climate change, but Jacey also said that "we don't need to be spending so much money on climate change." Deakin responded, saying that "the choice between having a strong economy and a strong environment is a false choice ... there will be a large environmental industry in the 21st century."

Planned Parenthood and abortion rights covered the last topics. Tamir-Pinsky thought that the decision to abort should be a private decision between the woman and her doctor. Jacey argued that abortion is unconstitutional, saying the "First Amendment guarantees that no person should be deprived of life, liberty, and property ... I believe that it is murder."

A representative of each party made one-minute closing statements. Tsaousidis finished by reminding the audience that this debate was meant to be a fun and educational experience and that he enjoyed being able to represent his club. Tamir-Pinsky recapped Hillary Clinton's policies and encouraged Arlington voters to go to the polls.

Watch a replay of the debate >>

This news summary by Jackson Schilling, YourArlington's Arlington High School intern for 2016-17, was published Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016.

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