June 25, 2017

A plea for diversity of opinion

Here’s a fact you likely already know: students and faculty at the high school are overwhelmingly left-leaning. Wellesley is a strikingly blue town in one of the most starkly liberal states in the country, so the leftist climate inside the high school is not inherently surprising. Still, the political atmosphere of the high school is staggeringly liberal, so much so that it bears the question: does the administration need to strive for balance and hire more conservative faculty?

Now, this is a difficult question, because I don’t truly know what I want the answer to be. I’ve been raised liberal, believing that Obama is the greatest POTUS I’ll ever see, taught since I was young that taxes = good and FOX = bad. I still believe all that. I still wrote this, I still support this, I still love Bernie, and I still think gun control should be stricter and estate taxes higher. But I also believe, as a young person growing up in a post-truth society, that it has never been more important to understand every side of political discourse.

It’s that last point where the high school is failing; once a student enters the high school, they are, for the most part, exposed to only limited variations of the leftist perspective. The high school boasts an incredible faculty; there’s no denying that. It’s also a faculty that includes many staunchly and outspokenly liberal teachers, teachers who profess these values to their students regularly. And if teachers are going to provide students with succinct, eloquent liberal perspectives on current socio-political issues, then the administration should ensure that there are teachers in the building who will opine from the opposite side of the political spectrum.

Then again, maybe there are conservative teachers at the high school who are simply afraid to voice their opinions in such a left-leaning town. Uniformity of opinion is one thing, but silence stemming from intimidation means that we are not only not encouraging diversity of opinion, but we are actually suppressing it. I understand that this is a hypothetical, but it’s exactly the type of situation the administration should strive to eliminate.

It is important to state that this article is not an indictment of the high school’s current faculty and staff. The teachers here are hardworking, smart people, and more importantly, they are generous, kind, and interesting — for the most part, of course. A frank, open-minded student-teacher relationship is essential to learning, and the more real-world anecdotes teachers can incorporate into their classes, the more relatable they are to students.

I appreciate the fact that there are teachers who outspokenly oppose Trump and Trump supporters, and I believe it is vital to have teachers standing up for students who don’t fit into the gender binary, denouncing racial profiling, and explicitly outlining why sexism will never be OK. This isn’t my issue; my issue is the fact that, since objectivity in classes seems to be out the window, students should at least be exposed to articulate conservative arguments and ideologies and allowed to make informed decisions. Right now, they are not.

The thing is, the solution doesn’t require drastic change. It simply requires meticulous future hirings by the administration, hirings targeted towards balancing out the staff. Wellesley has many, many well-documented problems with racial diversity. Addressing those issues, in particular the lack of faculty of color, should, of course, be at the top of any priorities list. But at the high school in particular, we are also lacking in diversity of opinion, and if the administration doesn’t begin to hire conservative voices, they risk homogenizing the opinions of the majority of the impressionable students under their charge.

It is, in a sense, an example of the “echo chamber” effect; students simply have no idea about the other side’s perspectives and experiences, because they’ve never been exposed to conservative lines of thinking. The ‘Wellesley bubble’ is an overused moniker, but it’s not incorrect, either. It doesn’t refer to money, or arrogance, or Ivy-league connections. It refers to an ignorance that we all share because we grow up in a school where we only hear variations of one side of a complex argument.

Teachers in the high school are intelligent, kind, and overtly qualified, but they are also overwhelmingly white and outspokenly liberal. Until the administration takes it upon itself to begin balancing out those demographics, the ‘bubble’ will never pop.

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