Assemblymember Kansen Chu Visits New Valley High
As part of New Valley High School’s unit on political participation, teachers invited State Assemblymember Kansen Chu to conduct a town hall meeting with the students on December 6, 2019.
To prepare for the assemblymember’s visit, the civics classes took a field trip to Sacramento and explored the State Capital, including an informative tour of the legislative process in California. Furthermore, students visited the party headquarters for the Democratic Party of California and the Republican Party of California to understand how local politics are influenced by the party machines.
Leading up to the town hall, students analyzed and voted on what they wanted to discuss based on the 2020 legislative issues posted on Assemblymember Chu’s website. The votes resulted in three primary questions:
- What are California and Santa Clara doing to remedy the affordable housing problem?
- How can we solve the homeless crisis in Santa Clara?
- Does the assemblymember support lowering the age limit for recreational cannabis from 21 to 18 years old?
“Given our student population, the questions were precisely what we are discussing in our civics class,” said civics teacher Matthew Loera. “Most of the media attention goes to presidential elections and national issues, but local politics has a greater impact on our lives. We have students who have been impacted by homelessness and lost entire years of school due to displacement. We have 17-18-year-olds who hope to move away from home, only to be discouraged by the high rental rates in Santa Clara. And, because they are registered voters, and adults in the eyes of the law, they question why the government is limiting their recreational choices.”
Assemblymember Chu was the ideal guest speaker and politician for this civics lesson. He shared his background as an immigrant to the U.S., his struggles to acclimate to our culture, his work as an IBM engineer, his choice to start a business, and ultimately his move into politics as a civil servant.
According to Loer, the first thing students said was, “we can’t believe he came.” Assemblymember Chu was the first politician to visit New Valley, and the students had predicted that he wouldn’t show — they were pleasantly surprised to be wrong.
When it came to the points of discussion, Assemblymember Chu was true to his nature as an engineer by training. He carefully explained the data that supports his political positions, and how further data can be used to adapt public policy in Santa Clara. To our students, Assemblymember Chu was real and relatable, not an intimidating adult. He made politics seem relevant and accessible as opposed to remote and scary.
“The first step in civics is to question, and then to seek information and understanding,” said Loera. “The New Valley students engaged in this important form of inquiry-based learning to prepare for the town hall.”
We greatly appreciate Assemblymember Kansen Chu for taking the time to discuss these important issues with our students, and for bringing a message of civil service to the next generation. New Valley students learned a great deal from the experience and are grateful for the opportunity.