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December 19, 2006 > Mock Convention

Mock Convention

Mission San Jose High School students sample the world of politics as they've done for 21 years and counting.

by Charlotte Flowers-Weston

Students lined up and piled into room C120 to watch debates between candidates of the Radical, Liberal, Conservative, and Ultra Conservative parties. The candidates walked in with heads held high, dressed in proper attire and ready to convince all present that they were the only candidate to elect.

It was the start of another "Mock Convention" at Mission San Jose High School, an annual event started 21 years ago by teacher, Mark Mattingly. Mock Convention provides students with hands-on experience in the art of politics. Participating students learn more about the part they can play in society.

On Thursday, Dec. 7, candidates debated issues of major importance affecting social and economic policies. In lively exchanges, student-candidates challenged opposition views on the weighty matters of poverty, wealth and race relations.

Radical candidate, Monica Lee asked Conservative Karinne Vangronin, "The right side constantly talks about people needing to get jobs. Say you're homeless. You don't have money to dress yourself. You want to get a job. You walk in. If you're the person hiring people, are you honestly going to hire a homeless person for a job?"

Vangronin countered, "Local communities are going to help people who are homeless.  We can't rely on the Federal government to go into the little counties and help every single person that's living on the side of the street. We need to promote local and state governments to help people."

Somewhat sarcastically, Lee replied, "I'm sorry. I thought the government was there to help every little person in our country."

"We are, but we need to rely on state government who can do a better job than us. This is how Conservatives care," said Vangronin, a response that brought a burst of laughter from both sides.

The wide-ranging debates touched on numerous other topics, including abortion, health care, immigration, energy and the environment, foreign policy, and separation of church and state issues.

In critiquing herself, Vangronin said she felt optimistic about the election then added, "I think the hardest part about this whole debate is that we live in a very liberal area, so it's like no matter really what I said all the policies that I supported, people wouldn't really listen to it."

As it turned out on Election Day, December 13, Vangronin's points were heard more clearly than she thought. Nearly all the votes went to either her or Lee. The split was close enough to warrant a runoff. Vangronin and the Conservative Party prevailed by 30 votes.

"The students were definitely into it," said Amy Shi, head of publicity for the campaign committee. "The moderators always had to enforce like a certain quota for the number of students who were allowed to speak on a certain issue because people were just so enthusiastic about all of the issues and there wasn't enough time for everyone to speak, multiple times. But I think a lot of the students could definitely relate to issues such as immigration or health care because it just has so much to do with their lives in general," she added.

The teachers and students that participated in the Mock Convention say it was a fun and learning experience that they look forward to doing again next year.

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