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A morning with McClintock
Congressman visits Pitman High to field student questions
McClintock at Pitman High
Rep. Tom McClintock takes questions and hears suggestions from Pitman High School civics students on Tuesday morning in the school’s library (Photo courtesy of TUSD).

Isaac Farhadian, an AP U.S. Government and politics teacher at Pitman High School, dedicates an entire unit each school year focusing on the legislative branch of government. On Tuesday morning, he took his lessons to a whole new level when he welcomed Rep. Tom McClintock (R-El Dorado Hills) on campus to meet with over 100 seniors.

McClintock is an eight-term congressman who represents California’s fifth congressional district, which includes Turlock’s east side, parts of Denair and all of Hughson. He is currently seeking reelection.

In Tuesday’s meeting with the Pitman students inside the school’s library, McClintock responded to letters students wrote to him on topics including the fentanyl crisis, student loan debt relief, low test scores and sexual violence in Stanislaus County. These were topics that Farhadian’s students felt were important to them and relevant to their communities. After students researched their topic, they came up with recommendations and questions. They posed them to McClintock during his visit.

Students Gonzales Eatough and Neelam Dihla described the experience as a “once in the lifetime opportunity.”

"I was honored to be able to share my perspective with an elected official," added Fiona Sargissian. “Sometimes we start to lose hope and feel like our voices aren't heard but this experience changed that for me because I got to express my concerns about a pressing issue in my county.”

Sargissian and classmate Samika Judge wrote in regards to the growing number of registered sex offenders in Stanislaus County. 

“Children make up close to 20% of our county’s population and there are 958 sex offenders registered in the county, leaving roughly one sex offender for every one hundred minors,” they said in their statement. “This puts us in the top 13 counties in California for sex offender rates and that is only counting those who are legally registered...”

The students made mention of a former Stanislaus County deputy arrested in September on charges of sexual and physical abuse of a minor. He was released on bail hours later while remaining on paid administrative leave. 

McClintock agreed with their sentiments, stating that laws relating to sexual violence have been too lax, and that existing laws need to be enforced more. He went as far as saying that those found guilty of sexual crimes, especially repeat offenders, need to be locked up and separated from society.

The congressman shared similar sentiments in regards to the fentanyl crisis, an issue brought up by students Kameron Pearson and Riley Allen. He spoke about the need for educating folks on fentanyl, as well as the need for stricter punishments for those found to be in possession or distributing the deadly opioid.

Eatough and Dihla spoke about California’s low math and science proficiency scores, citing California’s Education Department survey showing high school math proficiency rates dropped from 39.7% in 2019 to 33.4% in 2022 — a 6.3% drop after the pandemic. Additionally, the Smarter Balanced Test that California students took this year revealed proficiency rate to be around 30% in both mathematics and science, compared to the higher rate of 60% in reading. The students suggested that increasing graduation standards could be used to create a higher incentive for students to not only take, but pass math and science classes, while also making enrichment and intervention programs required throughout school days. McClintock shared that it is important for students to have a wide variety of classes to take, as it will give them more options when they eventually decide what they want to specialize in after graduation. 

In terms of those pursuing a higher education after high school, students Victoria Sanchez and Loveinya Khoshabeh posed questions regarding student loan forgiveness, sharing their thoughts that individuals who do not come from low-income families to be able to qualify for forgiveness, as well as those who do not have an adequate income to pay out of pocket for higher education.

“We believe that higher education is a right that all should have the opportunity to acquire. Money should never be an issue when it comes to getting an education. Higher education can take individuals out of poverty and is the most practical way to climb up the social ladder,” they said.

McClintock sees things differently, saying he believes there is no such thing as student loan forgiveness. He added that his own children had to take out loans to attend college, and that it was their responsibility to pay it off.

“You can’t expect people who didn't go to college to pay off their loans for those who did make the decision to go to college and pursue a higher education.”

McClintock ended by encouraging those in attendance to engage in public affairs and to refer to the country’s long history when formulating opinions and making decisions as they enter adulthood.

"I'm happy that our students had the opportunity to listen to Congressman McClintock,” Farhadian said. “I wanted to provide my students with the opportunity to research a topic of their choice, raise awareness about an issue important to them and their community, make recommendations for next steps, ask questions and address their concerns to a sitting member of Congress. This project gave students the opportunity to practice their reading, writing, speaking and listening skills, and it allowed them to participate in the democratic process."