At MVHS, liberal and moderate perspectives outnumber conservative ones by a large margin, according to a poll conducted by the MVHS Oracle. This isn’t surprising in a state like California, where both of its senators and 38 of 52 Californians serving in the House of Representatives are Democrats.
Because of a large liberal population, liberal perspectives often dominate classroom discussions and are even common in casual dialogue among friends. Classrooms at school are echo chambers for liberal perspectives, and students and teachers often silence conservative voices.
In the poll, a majority of students also reported feeling that lessons in the classroom are often or sometimes one-sided toward a liberal viewpoint. One conservative student even described feeling shut down during discussions.
“Being cornered discouraged me from sharing my thoughts, so later on I realized it’s not worth my time and effort to bicker about certain things,” senior Andrew Motey said. “I just stopped and I stopped caring about what other people thought of me because I didn’t feel like it was worth sharing my thoughts with other people if they were just going to disagree with me and not be open to it.”
The idea that being liberal involves excluding and dismissing conservative perspectives is fundamentally flawed, because all political ideologies have rationale. The Oracle is known for being a liberal newspaper, and we acknowledge that we often fall short at well-rounded journalism in our failure to represent conservative viewpoints.
Students and teachers must work to create an atmosphere where conservative students feel respected, valued, and encouraged to raise their voices without fear of rejection or dismissal. Only in this way can we have productive discussion that reaches the best solutions for complex issues—take Congress, for example, as an example of ineffective debate that results from an unwillingness to acknowledge the other side.
“Shutting down speech because you don’t agree with it isn’t speech. If you all agree with each other, what’s the point? How do you grow and how do you know that you’re right?” said Nikki Johnson-Huston, attorney and author of Huffington Post article “The Smug White Liberal.” “Attacking [conservatives] doesn’t move the ball forward to make the community better or stronger.”
Furthermore, student’s voices and political views should be celebrated, not just tolerated. We’re often quick to write off conservative viewpoints as illegitimate or unfounded without considering the reasoning behind them. And when we do so, we’re looking at conservatives through a clouded lens that fails to acknowledge the diversity of opinions within the conservative community.
We don’t have to agree with each other, but we must listen.
Teachers can promote inclusivity in the classroom by adding more conservative ideas to their curriculum, specifically in English and History classes. Students should be more receptive to learning about and understanding conservatism by looking at rationale for political stances from both sides.
“There definitely is oftentimes a liberal bias, especially in English and history, and I try very hard to show both sides when I teach and also to not share my political opinion,” English teacher Olivia Lin said. “We talk a lot in AP Comp about acknowledging the other sides, and I think bringing up those political sides is a good way to value listening to each other.”
Fostering conducive dialogue between liberals and conservatives that doesn’t stigmatize either group is essential to cultivating a well-rounded education. Teachers should aim to remove political biases from their own teaching, as conservative students are less-likely to speak up if liberal ideology is often normalized.
While Silicon Valley undoubtedly channels liberalism and progressivism, we must acknowledge that our classrooms should be places where students explore their values, beliefs, and political ideologies on their own terms.