History of St. Louis Students Explore Politics

Our 11th grade students are enjoying their History of St. Louis class this semester, and this week offered two distinct political-themed panels for them to choose from: one featuring Missouri state representatives and the other a diverse panel with elected and appointed officials, a journalist, and a staff member from Legal Services of Eastern Missouri.

The in-person panel met in Brauer Auditorium and included Missouri State Representatives Ian Mackey (D), Tracy McCreery (D), Shamed Dogan ’96 (R), and Phil Christofanelli (R).

“One of the things that really stood out to me was the idea of thinking about St. Louis not just as a city, but as a large community,” said Harrison Mandell ’23. “When thinking about St. Louis, I have always just pictured the city, and maybe a little bit of the county. Rep. Dogan said one of the most important things we can do as civilians is help our surrounding communities. When thinking about improvements for the city, we need to think about how these improvements can help other surrounding communities.”

“The legislators introduced the challenge of deciding whether an issue should be addressed locally by the municipal government or state-wide. Representative Mackey said that in his opinion, your rights shouldn’t be determined by your ZIP code. Some people have different ideas on what should be determined by each individual city, however, and it has caused controversy over the power the state legislature should exert over municipal governments. This is exacerbated by an issue we’ve discussed in class, the fact that St. Louis has so many municipalities,” observed Mason Bedell ’23.

Check out their enthusiastic conversation here:

The Zoom panel featured Ferguson Mayor Ella Jones, Judge Willie Epps ’88, St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Tony Messenger, and Karen Warren of Legal Services of Eastern Missouri.

“This panel reinforced the way I view St. Louis in terms of its diversity,” said Phoebe Burgis ’23. “When asked about the strengths of St. Louis and the successes that our city has seen so far, Judge Epps commented on how our population, and specifically our city’s leaders and officials, have become a lot more diverse over the year.”

“Despite the speakers having different views and being with different parties, they all also agreed on important issues. This really allowed me to understand that politicians are people, too, and want to respect people and give them the best opportunity possible, politics aside. At the same time, several pointed out that equality and rights without constraint are not available in all 90 St. Louis municipalities, so there’s work to do,” said Anagayle Senn ’23.

Nathan Yao ’23 said, “Many of the speakers reinforced my thinking on how St. Louis is on the rise due to the many committed individuals that really want to help the city’s development.”

Watch their lively discussion here:

“We were honored to have such a remarkable group of panelists join us to talk about political and legal topics in St. Louis,” said Carla Federman, JK-12 History and Social Studies Chair. “These are individuals who have committed themselves to working on the behalf of the community and for the betterment of the region. Being able to hear from such a wide variety of voices and perspectives brought these issues to life for our History of St. Louis students; the chance to ask these panelists questions and get to know them as civilians and as leaders was a truly unique opportunity.”

Scott Small, Head of Upper School, said, “The History of STL class is not only a class about the history of our city but an opportunity for our students to think critically about the complex challenges the region is facing. Through personal interactions with a variety of civic and community leaders, including most recently, our panel of state representatives from both sides of the aisle, our juniors have engaged in a curriculum that not only prepares them as academicians, but empowers them as problem-solvers, community members, and future leaders.”

Thank you to all our guest speakers for sharing your time, knowledge, and experience with our 11th grade students!