Toxic Masculinity. Gun Control. Racism. These topics are monstrous, overwhelming, and often stir up heated arguments filled with headaches and hate. However, this does not always have to be the case. With its relaxed and open atmosphere, the Symposium Club offers students an opportunity to discuss a polarizing topic in a non-polarizing way. This past Tuesday, February 23rd, eleven juniors and seniors gathered in the Lecture Hall to discuss another hot topic: minimum wage.

What would normally be a cozy conversation became socially-distanced discussion at the Symposium Club meeting last Tuesday in the Lecture Hall.

Imagine an Ancient Greek symposium. A banquet is at its fullest, and is filled to the brim with drinking, music, and conversation. Fast forward to the twenty-first century, and Providence Academy’s Symposium Club continues to invite casual conversation just like in Ancient Greece, minus the drinking, of course.  

So how did students manage to keep the conversation polite, even with opposing viewpoints in the mix? Symposium Club leaders went to great lengths to keep the discussion balanced. Before entering the Lecture Hall, students read packets that contained two articles: one arguing for the minimum wage, and one against. This ensured that no matter which side a person identified with, they had a basic knowledge of the other side’s argument. In addition, Dean of Students Mr. Joshua Blonski served as moderator, giving people a chance to speak, while Headmaster Dr. Todd Flanders played devil’s advocate to keep the discussion open to differing views.

“This club was founded because people today are inclined towards polarization, and our community is not immune to that,” Blonski stated, “The point of [the discussion] is not to debate, but to look at a topic, put forward opinions, and get feedback on those opinions, as well as to further our understanding about the minimum wage.”

Jack McElroy ’22 and Mac Clark ’22 analyze the possible effects of raising minimum wage.

Symposium Club leader Stephanie Momanyi ‘21 added, “Symposium Club is important because it teaches people to think for themselves, so when they go out into the world they already know how to do their own research, how to argue and debate, and how to connect with people who have differing viewpoints.”

This ability to communicate without conflict is so important that Symposium officers Momanyi, Michael Collins ‘21, and Adriana Azarian ‘22 even fought through the pandemic to bring the club to as many people as possible.  After the fall discussion on the Electoral College had to be scrapped due to Governor Walz’s restrictions on after school activities, the three student leaders devised a way to bring Symposium back into school in a more engaging way than ever before.

Momanyi explained, ‘“We changed the topic from the Electoral College to minimum wage to keep up with the times. It was a topic coming up a lot in our classes, so we decided to bring that conversation to a more controlled environment. We also added in the halls ways to access videos, to get more people engaged.”

Engaged they were. Even though the advertising for the event was limited to a few posters in the hallways and a handful of reminders in the announcements, eleven upperclassmen attended the Symposium Tuesday after school, enough to force the discussion to move from the Testing Center to the bigger Lecture Hall.

Grace Wikenheiser ‘22 reflected, “I really liked the constructive environment.  We could discuss something like minimum wage and it would be peaceful.”