School community unable to accept political disagreement

Rachel Vin, Opinions Writing Editor

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With event titles like “Day of Dialogue” and “Courageous Conversations,” it is clear that our school culture aims to create open discourse. We boast a politically and socially conscious student body, and often magnify how well our community hosts spaces for difficult discussions.

This is undoubtedly great, but it seems as though we overestimate how capable we are of real political discourse.

When discussing controversial topics such as race or sexuality, students can vocalize their opinions in an environment with little to no resistance. Our community is virtually completely left wing, and it is safe to say that the vast majority of students and faculty believe in movements such as Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ rights.

Consequently, the school is what is known as an “echo chamber:” a space where every voice is in agreement and disputing input is completely invalidated. This shapes an environment where “discourse” is just multiple people repeating the same viewpoint in different ways. Consequently, our community isn’t equipped to handle real disagreement.

This was exemplified last year when a period of tension erupted over opposing viewpoints on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In a rare moment, students and faculty could not largely come together in agreement.

After a pro-Palestinian activist was invited by the social studies department to speak and present her documentary on the subject, many Israeli parents were outraged that their children were supposedly being indoctrinated by anti-Zionists. Shortly after, a discussion session was held for students and faculty to voice their opinions on the conflict, and the debate quickly became accusatory and aggressive. Some members of the discussion claimed that criticising Israel’s actions was fundamentally antisemitic, essentially stating that anyone who disagreed with their stance was morally offensive.

Though this was a self-contained incident, it reflects a larger issue within our school’s culture. Due to the nature of the echo chamber, students have very little exposure to genuine disputes. With their peers constantly validating their beliefs, they go through high school with the feeling that their opinion is an objective truth. Thus, when an actual, disagreement arises, the student body does not know how to respond. This created a difficult situation last spring where many felt attacked and unjustifiably condemned.

Discussing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in school is exactly what we need. Students and staff will get the opportunity to experience real political debate. Furthermore, exposure to this topic will prepare the young social justice activists for the real world of political activism. However, this can only happen effectively if our school culture stops conveying that certain opinions are objectively moral, and all opposing viewpoints are wrong.

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