Popping the Bubble: A Take on What It’s Like to be a Conservative, Moderate at Holderness

February 12, 2018

Within the first twenty-four hours as a Holderness student, I began to question my entire ideology. A leader on my O-Hike group explained that she supported abortion, my roommate told me she was gay, and student leaders talked about rebelling against going to chapel! I felt like my beliefs were so contrary to those of the majority of the Holderness community that I must be in the wrong. It seemed that everything that I had been told in my small, conservative Indiana town was fake news. Although this was a rude awakening, I definitely did need it. During my first few weeks, I was completely lost as I didn’t know really what I believed or what I should believe. But, as my Holderness journey progressed I started asking myself “why” do I believe what I do. If I couldn’t support my beliefs with valid reasoning, I decided to keep an open mind on the topic.


In fact, I believe having a “why” mindset is a major step towards maturity. Developing this type of mindset is the point when we come to realize that not every idea on which we were raised is what we should believe. It’s the point when we learn that the world isn’t a utopian bubble where everyone agrees with us and that maybe no one philosophy is more “right” than the other. Therefore it’s crucial that teenagers are disagreed with. If their beliefs are never rebutted, they never come to develop their own outlook. This understanding is especially important in 2018 as the political and moral standpoints of young adults are more polarized than ever.


Peter Reynolds and Will Harker explained in their article “What It’s Like to be a Conservative, Moderate at Holderness” that the majority of Holderness students and faculty express their liberal beliefs while the conservative minority rarely openly disagrees. They state, ”Holderness School, while academically and intellectually impressive, is flooded with very similar minded thinkers”. All this causes Holderness students to rarely take, or express, moral and political stances against the status quo of the community.


Luckily, I have had the opportunity to be exposed to very contrasting ideologies at home and at Holderness before entering college or the workforce. But how are students who grew up with their adults not talking about politics or with political values that parallel those of the majority of the Holderness community expected to experience the epiphany of maturity, that I defined, in a community that never discusses moral and political beliefs? Holderness School should rid itself of the idea that everyone has liberal beliefs because if it doesn’t, the institution doesn’t provide students with the opportunity to question their pre-existing beliefs and form their own. We need to be comfortable being disagreed with.


People on both sides of the political ideology aisle agree that we need to start welcoming political debates and a variety of ideas. Therefore something needs to be done. But it’s unjustified to simply ask for this cultural change to take place without a structure. Along with Harker and Reynolds, I agree that the courageous conversations incentive needs to be respected. And that we need to “make sure that we disagree with the content of the argument – not just its conclusion.” I agree with Kitt Urdang and Will Harker’s proposal in “Across the Aisle: An Analysis of Holderness Politics” that the problem can begin to be solved by implementing a “Political Discourse” class “that captures the essence of political debate and further exploration into current events.” With these efforts, we can pop the Holderness bubble and expose ourselves to a plethora of beliefs.

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