Political Polarization Among The OES Community

by Maya K.H.

One could easily allege that OES is a predominantly liberal school. Everyone, students and faculty alike, are forthright about their political perspective.

When Donald Trump was elected president of the United States in November of 2016, many were distressed. Being middle eastern and coming from a muslim background, Trump’s winning the presidential election unquestionably alarmed me. An individual who has repeatedly denigrated my culture and background was placed in charge of running the country. Naturally, I found the disapproving comments regarding the president elect to be rather comforting, continually evoking me that many shared the same beliefs as I do.

But what about all those who supported Trump all throughout his election campaign, and were thrilled when he was chosen to run the country? With Trump winning barely 39% percent of the popular vote in Oregon, it is no doubt that Trump supporters are a minority in Oregon. Having lived in only Oregon my entire life, I can only imagine how it might feel to have a different political belief from all those around you. Even in schools, teachers were spending class time discussing how mortified they were of Trump’s presidency with their students. Imagine not only having your peers denounce your political beliefs but in addition having your educator, the individual to whom your supposed to look up to, attack your beliefs. Today, nearly a year and a half after Trump’s winning the election, it is still common for an educator to spend a few minutes of class time complaining about the newest government legislation or simply joke about the president.

Here at OES, many distinctive, openly conservative students have been judged solely based off of their political beliefs. I’ve seen nice kids be ridiculed and chastised, simply due to their difference in opinion. Individuals who claim to be part of this student’s friend group recurrently directly insult their political standing, questioning them on every single issue. “I feel degraded.”, explained a certain student, “My political views are seen as senseless and foolish. Everyone is expressive regarding their political thoughts, however, whenever I share the slightest idea, I am disgraced. Although I don’t agree with the beliefs of many, I don’t judge them for it.”  

Admittedly, whenever one shares their conflicting political views with me, I have a tendency of mentally drawing to conclusions regarding their character and benevolence. Yet here’s the controversy; when one is latched onto a certain political view, they’ll inherently view the opposing side as being ignorant, meaning that both sides regard each other as being wrong. Depending on where one is situated, there will subconsciously be a particular political mindset considered to be the “righteous” one, whereas contradicting viewpoints may be poorly thought of.

So is it fair for specific political mindsets to be denounced? More specifically, is an educational institution an appropriate setting for this prejudice to take place?  Is it genuine of an educator to spend even the slightest amount of class time denigrate the standpoint that any student of theirs may stealthily relate to? “As teachers, our main responsibility is to educate the student as a whole. Not only is teaching the material important, but setting an example as an exemplary person. We should not manifest a preference towards a certain manner of thinking for all that teaches the student is to single-minded towards a certain view and refuse to acknowledge any other reasoning,” stated VJ Sathyaraj, Religion & Philosophy Department Chair.

Although all are entitled to their personal opinions and the right to express them, it is vital that everyone, or at least everyone is the OES community, is taken into account. Under no circumstances should it be acceptable for one to verbally attack a particular individual, simply due to a controversy in standpoint.