Poli-Rad Continues to Pique Students’ Interest


TWHS Poli-Rad teachers, Jonathan Duffy and Pete Studebaker.

Drew Schwitzgebel and Mateo Mora

Local Thomas Worthington High School teacher, Pete Studebaker has recently begun instructing the highly controversial class, PoliRad, an unconventional class, that is reserved for seniors. The class revolves around bringing in speakers with views that range the political spectrum. Studebaker began teaching this class two years ago, and is eager to continue. 

Studebaker describes the class by quoting one of Kilbourne’s PoliRad teachers – Mr. Strausbaugh: “I like to imagine that the elevator pitch for PoliRad is… we’re gonna talk about everything that you’re not supposed to talk about, we might get in media, and you, meaning principles and superintendents, might have to bail us out”. 

Tom Mulnar, founder of the class, and his class were the first to spark the idea.

 “I think it’s a really important part of the class that it was created in collaboration with the students that were in the room and Tom,” Studebaker said. “Tom certainly deserves the credit for it being what it is today, so hopefully, what is it today in relation to the way it started“Y’know these politics, and what it means to be extreme right and extreme left change, but I hope the experience is still similar to what it was in the mid-seventies.”

Studebaker and his co-worker Jonathon Duffy both teach PoliRad and describe themselves as stewards of the class. They believe the course is bigger than them, and also bigger than Thomas Worthington or Kilbourne High School, it’s an institution. Studebaker not only praises the class from a teaching standpoint but also says that he learns something new every day in the class. 

There is an importance of enforcing rules in order to show respect to the speakers, so they feel welcome to come back next semester.

 “The only reason it has persisted in the way that it has is because of those rules, just respecting the speakers,” Studebaker said. “Going into it- you expect that you’re going to disagree. Sometimes very much so, but you always are free to–encouraged even–to disagree with your speaker’s takes, but to never attack the speaker.” 

There are many speakers that have been titled “Legacy Speakers” because they’ve been coming back for twenty to thirty years.

Debrief days are a crucial part of making PoliRad what it is. On debrief days student lead sessions where the class assesses what they heard from the most recent speaker. It’s important to have these days, without them the radical ideas are left to sit in the seniors’ minds without the chance to understand and dissect them. Studebaker says the ideal debrief is one that is entirely class-led. However, he sometimes is forced to “stir the pot” in order for the students to get a complete debrief. 

In PoliRad history, there has been controversy surrounding the class for the material that is shown to high schoolers. Studebaker acknowledges this and says it mostly stems from those who don’t know how the class works:  “Historically people, at least within our community, that have maybe had an issue with their student being in our class, once they learn what the class is and how it works – they’re fine with it. They think it’s dangerous at first but once they learn they’re more appreciative about it”.

PoliRad is a truly innovative class that benefits the students in a way no other class can.

 “While the topics may be uncomfortable, things you’re not supposed to talk about,” Studebaker said. “They’re important to talk about, and you’ll be talking about them eventually. Seeing as these seniors are making a transition from teenager to young adult, it’s crucial that these concepts are talked about to well equip them for the real world.”