Without identifying their party affiliations, representatives of the Yale College Democrats and Republicans faced off in a town hall-style debate Friday afternoon.
Brett Edkins ’06 and Albert Ferrara ’07 spoke in front of an audience of about 50 high school and college students who serve as counselors at after-school programs run by Leadership, Education and Athletics in Partnership. The questions, which focused on education, taxation and foreign policy, were written by the counselors. The event was followed by a mock election won by Edkins, the Democrat.
The debaters drew sharp distinctions between the governing philosophies of the two major parties.
Ferrara, the Republican representative, said that his party would create accountability in an “ownership society.” He said he would replace Social Security with private savings accounts that would give individuals control over retirement savings.
“It’s a great way to become an owner of this economy,” he said. “It’s your money, and you shouldn’t apologize for wanting to keep it.”
Edkins said he wanted to level the playing field in society. Providing health care to all Americans is a necessary step toward this goal, he said.
“By rescinding tax cuts on the wealthiest, we’ll be able to give health care to those who need it,” he said. “It shouldn’t be a privilege of the wealthy and the politicians, it should be a right for everyone.”
Both speakers agreed on a need for education reform, although they proposed different solutions.
Edkins said that his party would improve schools by increasing teacher recruitment and training in all public schools.
“What we need to do to make the schools better is increase teacher training, to raise teacher pay so people are actually attracted to teach,” he said.
Ferrara said that education reform should be based on higher standards and performance-based pay.
“If you get paid when you teach better, you’re going to teach better,” he said.
In response to a question about Sudan, the debaters proposed different mechanisms for making foreign policy decisions.
Ferrara said the United States should act when its interests are at stake, such as when a “clear and present threat” exists.
“Sudan is a humanitarian crisis, but it is not the job of the United States. We must look to our own interests before those of other people,” he said.
Edkins said that the genocide in the Sudan warranted a U.S. response. But he said that the United Nations was not an effective mechanism, because the United Nations is “paralyzed.”
“We should be going in there alone with a few allies, not the United Nations,” he said.
L.E.A.P. administrators said the event was intended to encourage students to vote on Nov. 2 and to inform them about the major issues in the election.
Although the counselors are employees of L.E.A.P., part of the program’s mission is to educate them, as well as the elementary- and middle-school students they work with, said Ally Brundige ’02, who helped coordinate the debate.
“One of the things that L.E.A.P. tries to do is not only help our kids, but also help the development of our counselors,” Brundige said.
The students asked questions about issues that they said had not been adequately answered by President George W. Bush ’68 and Sen. John Kerry ’66.
“It was really good; I got to ask some questions I’ve always wanted to ask. Unfortunately, I can’t ask the president, so it was good to ask them,” said Yvonne Dennison, a junior at Southern Connecticut State University.