The dinner took place in my hometown of Hodgenville, Kentucky. There were five people at dinner including myself. My brother, Cole, who is a senior in high school; he enjoys the outdoors, shooting guns, and plans on joining the United States Marine Corps. My mother, Cara, is an art teacher at the local elementary school; she enjoys quilting, and the Young and the Restless. My mom’s friend, Laura, is also a teacher at the elementary school. Laura is a movie buff, enjoys craft beers, and loves to travel. Also, at the dinner was my girlfriend, Hannah,she’s a freshman at WKU; she enjoys Netflix, eating pizza, and cuddling with her dog.
We started off with the required question of “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?” This was met with a wide range of opinions. Cole started by talking about what it means as a future member of the military. He brought up some great points about how there are so many things that he wants to contribute with his role. This led into what my Mom wanted to talk about; she believes that as citizens it is our job to continue to move our community and country, as a whole, towards the right direction. She went on to talk about her job as a teacher, and how she believes that education was the most important thing to do for our country as a citizen. One quote I thought was memorable was, “without education what this country has become will slowly go backwards.” She then went on to discuss her thoughts on the current legislation in Kentucky (that I’d heard a million times before). Laura naturally agreed with my Mom as she is also a teacher, and Hannah, who is planning on becoming a teacher as well, also agreed.
The conversation after this went in many different directions. When asked “What are the greatest things about the world today?”, the majority couldn’t come up with a concrete answer; this struck me as worrisome. Out of all of them, not one could, off the top of their heads, give me an answer. Eventually the two teachers decided that the worlds’ children were the greatest treasures we had. My mother exclaimed, “our children will one day be the people that decide our fate.” Cole decided that nature is the main source of good in the world, which I am inclined to agree. This led to a conversation about the continual destruction of the few wild places we have left- both in the United States and abroad. This topic, as always, led to a sort of hopeless ambiance over the conversation. Hannah doesn’t believe that there is any one thing that is “good” in today’s society. She says with the amount of corruption and lack of initiative there just isn’t anything to be very thankful for left. She goes on to say that there is of course good in the world, but there isn’t anything left to really celebrate.
When asked what they loved about where they lived the majority said the slow, peaceful lifestyle that Hodgenville affords its residents. It’s the epitome of a small country town, and they loved that. Hannah made a point about how the small size allowed for a more connected community than some of the larger towns in the area like Elizabethtown or Campbellsville. Cole likes the nature, and the ability to hunt, fish, and all of the other outdoor activities that he enjoys. This segwayed into another question, “what would you change about our community?” Hannah wanted to add more diversity when it came to dining options, “there are hardly any options for fine dining here.” Mom just wanted more diversity in general. With very few people of color, or any background other than the vast majority of the populace, it is hard to gain a very broad understanding of what the world outside Hodgenville is like for many people. Laura wished that the lives of other Latino people in the community were better than they are- telling stories of her families struggles, and the adversity that her school kids have to face that many of the Caucasian children don’t have to worry about. Cole dislikes the education system because of the diminished diversity in classes. With the majority of electives only being technology based, agriculturally based, or artistically based, he doesn’t think that our school has a very broad range of classes to choose from.
We then tried to figure out a solution to the worlds problems. Once again, the teachers reverted back to their mantra of education, my brother chose a more aggressive take over the world-esque strategy, and Hannah chose a more loving/taking care of each other way. I then asked what steps should be taken to implement their solutions- again- the table fell silent. This led to the realization that none of their options have a clear solution. I then explained to them the idea of a wicked problem, and how that was one of the main focuses of our Honors 251 class. I then asked if they could think of any wicked problems themselves. Cole brought up the destruction of nature which is definitely a horrific problem. Mom talked about corruption in politics. Laura (who is Hispanic) talked about immigration. Hannah interestingly brought up Opioids. We then discussed how these wicked problems affect our everyday lives. Cole, as an outdoorsman, is saddened by the fact that so much thriving nature is diminishing due to things like pollution, deforestation, and development. The corruption of government naturally affects the laws, and overall concentration of efforts in our nation; this leads to a constant struggle with what our representatives believe is the correct choice, and the majority of the population. The immigration topic was particularly polarizing as Laura was for increased immigration and my brother against it altogether. He admonished that while even though the majority of the United States populace is descended from immigrants, that doesn’t mean that continual immigration is necessarily the answer. This then led to a discussion about overpopulation, which led to some extreme views from my brother, who then realized that it also had a major impact on the nature discussion we had earlier. Hannah’s topic of opioids brought up similar questions that we discussed in the class deliberation and was one that we had all experienced in our own community. Cole’s brutally honest quote, “The world is a messed-up place” is probably the most important realization of the night. With this, the conversation died down a little, and the only sounds were from eating.
I learned many things from this experiment. One thing that really stood out to me was the differences in reasoning between Cole and myself. It struck me as odd that two people that were raised together by the same parents with the same set of moral instructions could be so different in how we see the world. While we talked, and I realized this, it made me appreciate his part of the discussion more, because he wasn’t exactly like me; I saw things in a way that almost brought me closer to him. I also came to realize that between us, my brother was more like our father, and I more like our mother. Cole had a more conservative mindset, and mine more liberal. Laura’s input I thought to be especially valuable as she is a Latina woman, her ideas, and opinions come from an entirely different place than my own. Especially when she discussed the plights that her family had to endure to even come to this country. I learned a lot more on the situation in our state currently regarding the future of the public education system, and the implications that legislation could have on the teachers. I also learned quite a bit about my own family that wasn’t in attendance. My mother told stories about my grandfather and how his work in the FBI made a difference in certain aspects of these problems. How my grandmother immigrated from Germany, and how that part of the family faced similar things to Laura’s family in some ways.
As a whole, the assignment brought a brand-new perspective to how others view these major issues in our world. One reading that I recommended all of the attendees to read was Exit West. With the major topic that dominated the discussion being immigration, I believe it would provide insight to the group on the realities of immigrations, and how those that are immigrants adapt to their new homes. Interestingly Laura talked about how her mother lost her religious beliefs after her move to the United States, and with one of the main factors that affects the characters in the book being religion I thought it would be great for her to read as well. Out of the three central questions that we mainly discussed throughout the meal was how we live better together. The discussion focused on improvements to the community, so this naturally is the main thing we focused on.