by Ryan Sanghavi, Staff Writer, April 2021
It is expected that a school on the outskirts of Boston populated by a diverse group of young students would be, to say the least, skewed to the left. However, concerns among the Nobles student body mount as, in many cases, a single opinion dominates the environment, and a predisposition towards the left stamps out dissension beyond the progressive majority. When a majority becomes both the norm and the expectation, how can voices of the ideological minority be heard without immediate disregard and shame?
The ‘balance of power’ between liberal and conservative ideals has been evident in the outcome of the student election facilitated by The Nobleman in November, by assemblies supporting left-leaning movements, beliefs, and political candidates, and within individual class discussions.
As David Hermanson (Class III) said, “People that tend to lean left are given a lot of opportunities to share their opinions because they are supported by the faculty. Whenever a current event comes up, it is almost a guarantee that those adamant in their leftist views will [dominate].” The faculty serves as a source of knowledge for students when forming stances on pressing issues, but if the majority of teachers push a certain narrative onto students, then the formation of new views is tainted by a lack of ideological diversity.
“It’s a problem of polarization,” Hermanson said, further stating, “[Nobles] doesn’t teach you how to properly engage with others who are different than you, and it doesn’t teach you how to think independently without the support of your community.” Even without the dynamic between liberalism and conservatism, the risk of a majority group on campus stands with one’s inclination to agree with popular opinion; without multiple outlooks on an issue, students tend to default towards the sole case that is presented.
This issue is not solely about a lack of conservative individuals on campus. It also regards conservatives’ inability to have their ideas treated as equal to the opposition’s. “Once you’ve established yourself as a member of the ‘other,’ you get immediately dismissed,” Hermanson said.
This sentiment was echoed by Colin Levine (Class IV), who said, “The second I express something contrary to what [the majority] believe in, they’re not going to listen to the rest of what I say.” A type of cancel culture seems to be present on a conversational scale; even when agreeing with the majority opinion on some issues, conservative views are often disregarded after a single break from the norm.
One reason that this issue is so difficult to resolve is that the problem cannot be pinpointed to a single definition – the common rejection of conservative beliefs may not amount to the caliber of microaggressions – but they do make students feel unwelcome around ‘controversial’ topics. The issue exemplifies something ingrained into students’ minds by several years of English courses – the danger of a single story. In short, the problem at hand remains that arguable opinions, the validity of which are constantly up for debate, are accepted as fact while those who propose opposing viewpoints find both their stances and themselves shot down.
Despite a culture that enjoys discussing politics, discussions are often an echo chamber in which students continually praise accepted beliefs and reject outside views. “It doesn’t cost us anything to present both sides of an issue in every class. [We can] acknowledge the minority opinion and majority opinion and make a concession that perhaps the opposing opinion to our liberal perspective at Nobles has some merit,” Levine said. There is no quick or easy solution, especially with such a clear ideological majority that would likely be unwilling to engage in any changes that could jeopardize their longstanding position.
This is not to say that the conservative viewpoint is the sole victim of ridicule and censorship in general political discussions. Moderate stances are often seen as superior to those dubbed ‘liberal,’ but, given the nature and diversity of the school, a moderate voice at Nobles would likely be considered left-leaning in much of the rest of the country.
Levine testified as to whether he believes the inverse of the problem, the liberal dismissal of conservative views, has an applicable inverse on campus, saying: “I certainly wouldn’t say conservatives at Nobles contribute to the issue because they tend not to be very vocal, but across the country, it’s a different matter.” He clarified this statement: “The Republican party nationwide is responsible for closing conversations and dismissing anyone who doesn’t believe in what they do, but at Nobles, we don’t have conservative verbalization at all.”
As it stands, a key solution to this issue could be as simple as letting every voice hold equal weight in politics on campus. However, this is more easily said than done. As conservatism stands a meek minority, and given a variety of factors in the national state of affairs, many conservatives could continue to restrict or censor their own views. However, we as a community owe it, at the very least, to listen to those who want to be heard.