We in the high school community pride ourselves on how accepting we are. We make time to discuss important issues, including racism and sexism, and work to ensure that a diverse group of voices are heard that span age, race, class, gender and sexual orientation.
Yet, if a wide variety of opinions is our goal, we have failed at one very important aspect: conservative viewpoints about issues are often ignored, and those who hold them, ostracized.
Many teachers espouse liberal opinions in class, without disclaiming them as opinions, and tell students who state the counterpoint that they are wrong, even when dealing with opinions rather than facts. Students are afraid to admit they are conservative because they think their peers may ridicule or ignore them because they are different.
The Sagamore has spent months trying to find writers who disagree with the majority liberal leanings at the high school. All those contacted were only willing to write anonymously because they feared retribution and other repercussions at the hands of their classmates.
However, things do not have to stay this way. Students with conservative ideology can feel accepted at the high school. Liberals must allow conservatives to state their points of view without fear of isolation or scorn.
The high school should take many of the same measures it has taken in ensuring that other minorities feel recognized at the high school. Teachers should not denigrate the beliefs of conservatives, and other students should be willing to engage in a respectful, multi-sided discussion. Respectful dissent should be encouraged and the dissenters appreciated.
A variety of opinions helps all sides learn more about important issues. In addition, it prompts discussion where productive disagreement can lead to potential compromise benefitting all sides. At a high school, where the goal is for students and teachers to learn, this is vitally important.
Our country is great because our wide range of social, political and economic ideologies work to create a place that strives to be accepting of all people. The high school community should not allow majority rule to belittle and diminish the point of view of the conservative minority.
The same way the hateful language that often permeates national discussions hurts all of America, entrenched liberal intolerance at the high school hinders the learning of all students. By opening up discussion to a wide range of ideas beyond just liberalism or conservatism, the high school will best teach its students while promoting an environment of acceptance.
If the high school is truly committed to respecting every student, we must move away from isolating our conservative peers. Instead, we must respect people with all opinions; by doing this, we will accomplish a safer environment for all students.