Minority Conservatives Marginalized by Kavanaugh Hearing
By Caroline L.
November 1, 2018
On September 27th, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee during the hearing of Judge Brett Michael Kavanaugh, President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court. Ford recalls being at a high school party during the summer of 1982 where Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge were also present. During Dr. Ford's testimony, she relayed the encounter of sexual violence, conveying her fear that Judge Kavanaugh was going to rape her.
During the hearing, many students on campus could be seen viewing Kavanaugh and Ford’s testimonies on their laptops, phones, and even on a large screen in the library. The hearings gave students and staff alike plenty to talk about. The viewing of potentially sensitive, controversial topics can lead to some issues though. Some teachers have expressed their political beliefs openly in class and at times have canceled scheduled curriculum to focus on current events. It’s no secret that many teachers openly voice their political views, but even in the unapologetically liberal campus climate, some left-leaning students wonder if such political exhibitions unwittingly censor discourse rather than nurture it.
Navigating controversial current events and political topics can be opportunities for teaching. Ms. Marcus, an upper school history teacher, likes to include current events in her curriculum. “I actually think that it creates a more open atmosphere if you’re not guessing what your teacher thinks. I think we should have a lively discussion about it, I think there should be some pros and cons and some critiques of what I’m saying,” says Ms. Marcus. She believes that it is okay for teachers to share their political opinions because students will be more open to talking about tough topics.
Some students with minority viewpoints disagree. “I definitely think teachers should not voice their political opinions. It brings even more bias to the school. Teachers should be open-minded in class environments when a political discussion arises and definitely not sway one way to shut the opposite views down,” says Christine B. ’20. Some left-leaning students have also lamented the lack of diverse perspectives. “Even as someone whose political views align with the views of most people at Westridge, the almost complete lack of political diversity worries me. We are in a bubble. Students don't hear different perspectives, and their own views are never challenged. This doesn't lead to a realistic understanding of how the rest of the world works or teach students how to effectively disagree with people about politics,” says Julia S. ’21. In other ways, students’ learning can be hindered when topics like the Kavanaugh hearing take up the whole class. “I had a couple of my classes canceled that day so that we could watch the hearing instead. Even though I enjoyed watching it, I was also a little worried about missing class and getting a little behind,” said Bianca L. ’21.
Walkouts, protests, and elections further aggravate existing marginalization for those who do not agree with ideas that other students confidently advertise. During the March for Our Lives, last year’s student-led walkout over gun control, almost the entire school, decked out in orange, walked out of class and through the front gates to chant anti-NRA chants in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting. The shooting, which took place on February 14, left seventeen members of their community dead. Schools across the nation walked out for seventeen minutes to honor the seventeen killed. Even some teachers walked out, further fueling the fire of a debate on whether or not teachers should be open about their political beliefs at school.
Conservative students at Westridge are used to being in the minority, but often times conservative perspectives aren’t fairly presented in discussions. “Conservative voices do tend to be silenced. I feel that people’s liberal views are so prominent and abundant on campus, that almost all conservatives feel afraid to share their thoughts because they fear to be argued against or judged by the majority,” said Christine B. “I feel that because of Kavanaugh’s hearing, many people accused conservatives of not believing in women’s rights and automatically thought that we were against [women’s] empowerment and did not respect women who have suffered from sexual assault.”
Although Westridge has a Young Republicans Club and a Young Democrats Club, this is only a small way the school provides a safe space for conservatives. How their viewpoints are presented or treated in class discussions remains to be seen. The Kavanaugh hearing and the upcoming midterm elections are sensitive topics for all students at Westridge, more so for some who may have to navigate the discomfort of holding a minority viewpoint.