SWS does not strive for political diversity in applications


Jamie Martinez

School Within a School often markets itself as anti-conformist, but the hive mindset establishes certain opinions (and shoes) as acceptable while others are suppressed.

Ben Haber, Contributing Writer

Recently, the hypocrisy of SWS culture has been made very evident to me, and it is necessary that the students of the high school are made aware of it as well. This is my first year in SWS, and over the last few months, I have gotten to know the teachers and most of the students. Within SWS, there is a pretty clear line between students who are attempting to remain culturally mainstream, and students who are fully attuned to the SWS culture. This can be seen most clearly during town meeting. Some students are there solely to receive credit, and some are there to actively participate in the ambiguous, “democratic” process of proposing and voting on SWS policies. Although SWS projects an image of democracy and acceptance, the community itself refuses to hear the voices of people who think differently than the left-leaning, liberal, 4th floor standard of opinion.

The root of the problem within SWS comes in two forms: the disregard for more conservative opinions in the community and the lack of effort to reach out and find people who hold different opinions. A few weeks ago, I approached community members and asked whether they thought it would be a good idea to add a section of the SWS application process regarding political affiliation. The response to the idea was overwhelmingly negative. Students and teachers alike argued that asking someone to state their political affiliation would be too personal, and force people to make a tough choice as to what politics they support at such a young age. However, one of the main purposes of the extensive lottery process is to create a student body this is diverse in race and gender. The SWS community needs to follow along with their message of diversity and acceptance, and open up the room to politically conservative students.

The lack of an attempt to reach out and find a diversity of opinion has been a common discussion point in my SWS history class, led by Dr. Jen Martin. This idea of bringing other voices into the room came up when discussing the recent and tragic shootings in Pittsburgh. Many in the room agreed that the stigma Donald Trump has created led to these horrific acts. While one could make the connection between Trump’s comments about a new age of America and antisemitism, it is shocking to hear liberals blame the President of the United States for sparking an act of terrorism. Our country’s politicians, no matter the party, do not condone acts of terrorism, nor do they want to put the lives of American people in danger. I raised my hand and suggested we listen to the opinions of all Americans, whether we agree with their beliefs or not. Over the last couple months I have not seen a welcoming of diversity, especially towards opinions that don’t reflect a liberal agenda. The only way to structure a true community of higher learning is to build a space in which everyone’s opinions, no matter how different, are accepted and valued as equal to all other opinions.     

I was inspired to write this piece by a quote I heard recently made by a former BHS dean regarding the atmosphere in Brookline. He said, “Brookline is tolerant of everything, except intolerance.” Meaning, while Brookline strives to be a leader in the fight for acceptance and tolerance for all, the community refuses to accept members whose beliefs might interfere with what’s considered, “the accepted beliefs of the community.” In regards to the SWS lottery process, I think it should either include a space to express every identity one possesses to reflect the mainstream population  (which would be borderline impossible to do), or none at all, with the idea that kids would be accepted based on merit, and not race or gender.

Over the past few months I have made many friends in the SWS community, and I have come to see the amazing group of talented and smart people that they are. So I would like to challenge those same amazing kids and attempt to bring in as many diverse opinions as possible, whether through learning or just conversation. Having the skills to be able to communicate with people of other viewpoints and opinions is a powerful skill that will help bridge the divide between our country and our political parties. There is no better place to start that understanding than in the community built around acceptance, our school within a school.