Across the Aisle: An Analysis of Holderness Politics
February 12, 2018
In today’s America, political division is omnipresent and growing deeper by the day. Gone are the days of bipartisan agreements, of Americans switching parties, of cooperation between Democrats and Republicans. This growing polarization of political views has led to protests, riots, and demonstrations over this past few decades and over the past year, in particular. However, through it all, the Holderness political climate has hardly changed. Most faculty, administrators, parents, and students are proud of the current political climate at our school, the “safe place” that exists here. We disagree.
Holderness’ tranquil surface is the result of the community’s unhealthy fear of disagreement. Here, we are not encouraged to create our own political views but are coerced by the school, as a whole, to believe what is being exposed to us. The school community does not encourage political discourse and the student body does not seek it. NPR, in their introduction to an interview with University of Wisconsin-Madison educational experts, concluded that “Schools… are and ought to be political places — but not partisan ones… in today’s highly polarized society, teachers can walk that very fine line.” It’s clear that political discourse, with an emphasis on understanding and unity, is sorely lacking at Holderness.
In Will Harker and Peter Reynolds’ “What It’s Like to be a Conservative, Moderate” article, they say, “we understand that high school political culture is, to a certain extent, merely a recitation of family dinner table conversations.” This is the heart of the issue. High school is a time of growth and of change. These are, for many of us, the formative years before we cast our first ballot. The school has a duty to help us become informed voters and citizens, who have a basic understanding of political institutions. In a few years, our votes will count for just as much as the adults who raised us. However, students leave the school with insufficient knowledge of what it means to be a true citizen, the true power of their vote and their voice lost, as they enter a polarized political world for which they had no preparation or warning.
The United States’ current political system, a liberal democracy, has inherently created a two-party system that cannot easily be removed. Our two-party system has created such a divide that people struggle to find common ground. Current political beliefs are highly polarized, and Holderness is a theater in a nationwide fight for true and fair political discourse. Since we are not able to solve political polarization overnight, we must start to encourage a civil way of thought from an age when students are creating their own beliefs. Our current environment leads students to keep their thoughts to themselves and not participate in discourse, making the divide between political ideologies greater. By not participating, they will never be exposed to another way of thought, or potentially convinced otherwise.
Educational institutions of all levels try to strike a balance between ignoring national issues and feeding their students partisan propaganda. At Holderness, we are between those two extremes, yet still stuck in ambiguity. We walk a fine line between keeping students informed on modern political issues and actually addressing them. Here, at Holderness, most issues aren’t addressed, and if they are, scholarly political debates are often cut short or skipped over in the name of refocusing the class. In order to keep students engaged in political activity and interested in having scholarly political discourse, we propose a solution that puts an emphasis on keeping students informed about the modern political society and its systems. This way, courses focused on other topics won’t be interrupted as frequently by political debates. Our solution comes in the form of a class, “Political Discourse.” We will be proposing this new class, that captures the essence of political debate and further exploration into current events. The objective of this course is to give students the opportunity to speak on their beliefs after extensive research into multiple viewpoints on a single issue. Multiple issues will be researched and discussed over the duration of the course, and the class will feature weekly debates. It will also contain a component of public speaking with updates in assembly for the purpose of keeping students informed and unafraid of political disagreement.
We hope to see a change in our school’s political tolerance in the near future. This change is one that we can’t take on alone though, we must unite as a community to close the political divide and be unafraid of tackling controversial and “hard to solve” political issues.