Even students who seldom pay attention to the week’s top headlines are by now familiar with the conflict in Ukraine through discussions in their classes and with their friends. As such, many students are drawing connections between current events and their curriculum.
“It’s been brought up in class a lot because we’re reading 1984,” said Ginny, who explained how her English class identified a parallel between the nationalist propaganda and manipulation of factual reporting created by the Party in Orwell’s novel and the Russian government’s chokehold on independent Russian news outlets. To see elements of the novel reflected in the current events, she said, made reading the two in tandem all the more chilling. “I don’t even know how to articulate my thoughts about it. It’s just so unwarranted.”
Similarly, high school students enrolled in courses like Economics and Business Math explored the financial implications of sanctions imposed on Russia. “Our class has talked about the supply shock we’ve been having due to the conflict,” said Dylan, who is currently taking AP Macroeconomics. “It’s kind of tough to talk about from our side of the pond. We’re like ‘Oh, gas prices are going up.’ But when you think about it on a grander scale, you’re like ‘Why do we care about this when people are dying?’ ”
The discussions among students aren’t limited to high schools. Jackson, a sophomore at San Diego Mesa College, described a statement put out by the school condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and expressing solidarity with Ukrainian students.
“There was also a bit at the end I liked about how these are the actions of the Russian government, not any Russian American or Russian transfer students here at Mesa,” Jackson said. “Which is pretty neat, because not all the rhetoric has been great about that.”
Nolan, a high school senior who recalled discussing Ukraine in his Intro to Law class, says the opinions he’s heard expressed by students are almost unanimously pro-Ukraine. He also speculated as to why the United States has seen a relatively small number of wide-scale protests regarding Ukraine.
“Last year with the Black Lives Matter movement there were definitely protests and group efforts organized by student clubs,” Nolan said. “I think it’s because people feel like a coordinated effort in the U.S. isn’t going to have as much of an effect on a foreign issue.”
Even so, several of the interviewed students reported seeing a flurry of social media awareness campaigns and the dissemination of donation links. One student, Regan, described driving down Del Mar Heights Road with her mom and seeing a local business flying the Ukrainian flag. “It’s stuff like that that really shows how people are coming together to help Ukraine and fight with them,” Regan said.