Debate IconThis last week I had an opportunity to function as the judge in a mock criminal trial at Compass Academy in Idaho Falls. I don’t do criminal law and had to do a bit of preparation. I was a bit nervous on the day of the trial.

But, I so enjoyed my two hours there and I was struck by a single, central point:  Today’s high school students are highly capable, talented and are well equipped to make the world a better place (of note, my daughter goes to Compass and is graduating this week).

The mock court scenario was a murder at the school where the alleged perpetrator purportedly used a hammer to do-in the victim.  The defendant asserted that a masked third party was the guilty party.

I was so impressed by the Compass students.  Two female students handled the prosecution. A male and female pair led the defense.  Others functioned as the bailiff and the various witnesses. A jury of parents, students, an LDS seminary instructor and various teachers decided the case.

The four “attorneys” did a stellar job of making passionate opening and closing statements and questioning the witnesses. They dressed appropriately and had a demeanor that many practicing lawyers can’t match.

The court bailiff was dressed in an officer’s uniform (from the Blackfoot Police Department) and swore in the witnesses and handled the various items of evidence with aplomb.

Each witness (many in costume) knew their story by heart and were believable as the defendant’s mother, the investigating police officer, and various other players.

The jury listened attentively — many taking notes — and rendered a “not guilty” verdict after due consideration.

Compass team teachers Joseph Timchak and Holly Dasher deserve kudos as do Idaho Falls prosecutor Jeff Thomason who worked extensively with the students.

Adults love to grumble about young people: Their fashions are bizarre, their music is awful and they are lazy. Yet, the same was said by the parents of those who complain today.

Today’s youth are simply better.  They are more likely to graduate from high school and go onto college than those who came before them.  They smoke and drink less than previous generations. They do far more homework than my generation did. They delay sexual activity and their abortion rate is less than half of what it was 30 years ago. 

Their music may still leave something to be desired . . . But, they will be in a position to tackle the challenges of tomorrow. Their peers are diverse in background.  They have little tolerance for those who bash minorities, gays, or others. The politics of so many in today’s discourse will not register with them.

I do feel bad for some of the challenges we will leave them.  They will deal with a rapidly rising federal deficit.  Healthcare and higher education will likely be huge financial burdens. They will function in a world still marked by violent states. Hopefully, they will do better than those who preceded them.

Overall, though, their future is bright. They live and breathe technology. They will drive tomorrow’s medical advances, build the next generation’s cool devices and embrace exploration of our solar system. 

I am confident that their inherent talents and skills will leave our nation and world better.

Steve Taggart is an Idaho Falls attorney specializing in bankruptcy (  He has an extensive background in politics and public policy. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..