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Conservatism at Strath Haven

Zach Smith, '18, Staff Writer

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Everyone’s political views are irrefutably based upon the environment in which they are raised. I am no exception. Of course I have grown up in Swarthmore, a college town in which close to 90% of people voted democratic in the 2016 election, so for my whole life my mind has been infused with its liberal ideologies. However, I have also been raised by a strongly conservative family. My father grew up in Nebraska, my maternal grandfather grew up in Louisiana, and a vast majority of my family lives in what can be described as “red states.” The voices of Tucker Carlson and Bret Baier frequently float through my house. As a result of this combination of influences, I consider myself to be a fiscal conservative while being more socially liberal. Unquestionably, this places me in the minority of students at Strath Haven High School.

In four years at Haven, I have not read one conservative-minded opinion article in the Panther Press. This is most likely not due to a lack of Republicans in the student body. Writing this article is the most terrifying thing I have done in my high school career, but now that I am a second-semester senior, my fear of a now inescapable social outcasting has grown insignificant.

Every day in the cafeteria, I hear conservative classmates judged for expressing a contrary opinion to the overwhelmingly liberal viewpoint shared at the lunch table. Though I often agree with them, I am ashamed that I have never voiced this agreement. But I am afraid of being the subject of gossip and ridicule. During the 2016 election cycle, an underclassman wore a “Trump/Pence” shirt to school and I was shocked to hear the true disgust I heard directed his way, even though no one knew anything about his opinions aside from his political affiliation.

The imbalance in opinion within this school has been especially present in history classrooms. In my sophomore year, I wore a shirt with the traditional Republican symbol of the elephant branded with stars and stripes. Nervously unveiling it one day in U.S. History, another student calmly retorted “wow, I thought you were smart,” and turned around as if they hadn’t just ruined my hope of ever speaking out in this school as even the most moderate of conservatives.

There is some sort of deluded image at Strath Haven of what a Republican is. Let me sample a segment of a conversation that I was apart of on January 12, 2018:

Person 1: “I think no one actually supports Trump anymore”

Person 2 (Me):“That’s just not true, almost 40% of the country still approves of his work”

Person 1:“Well, no one here does”

Person 3: “That’s because we don’t live in redneckville”

This is not just one student’s opinion either, and I am not saying that it is reflective of the entire liberal student body by any means. But, quite frankly, this is absurd. The assumption that conservatives are all “rednecks” is so frighteningly ignorant and highlights the shielded worldview that many Strath Haven students possess.

Unfortunately, Trump’s rhetoric is fostering this sense of delusion. There is a growing opinion that he is reflective of anyone with conservative ideals. His more radical base reflects poorly on more centrist Republicans who are becoming increasingly ridiculed as a result. Strath Haven students are no exception, and I have noticed this year that the Republican shaming has reached new heights.

There’s an inaccurate stigma that Republicans at Strath Haven are of a lesser intelligence or have an inherently more flawed character than their democratic counterparts. The difference between liberals and conservatives lies not in their composite character, but in how they prioritize their values and ideals. Believing in a smaller, less intrusive government with lower taxes, shockingly, does not make me any less of a person than someone who favors a larger federal government with progressive taxation.

Yes, when I register to vote, odds are I will register as a Republican, but I am personally not a supporter of Donald Trump. His rhetoric is routinely shameful for the office of President of the United States and often disgusting. However, if one finds it possible to ignore his narcissistic tendencies and look through his muddied, controversial surface, as I sometimes can, I see a president whose first year in office can possibly be quantified by some level of success. The stock market continues to surge and over 1.5 million jobs have been created (realclearpolitics.com). Illegal immigration has decreased. He’s appointed a new Supreme Court justice. And while we must wait and see to judge the impact of the overhauled tax code, this major piece of legislation has the potential to be the most lasting product of his administration. Overall, based solely on actions and not words, Trump’s first year is just as open to bipartisan debate and criticism as Obama’s first years, and not the total disaster that most at Strath Haven instinctively believe.

A school is supposed to be a place where ideas are freely and openly shared and debated without any fear of repression. Sadly, our school has failed to generate this environment. Part of Strath Haven’s mission statement is to produce graduates who will have “the ability to apply their knowledge and skills to demonstrate self-awareness and informed critical-thinking.” It is impossible, politically, to demonstrate any sort of self-awareness or possess an illusion of being wholly informed when the conservative student body has been so marginalized and dogmatized by its peers that any expression of conservatism is largely ridiculed, and any support of a non-democratic candidate is quickly dismissed.

The student newspaper of Strath Haven High School. The Panther Press is first and foremost a reflection of the opinions and interests of the student body. For this reason, we do not publish any anonymous or teacher-written submissions, and we do not discriminate against any ideology or political opinion. While we are bound by school policy (and funding), we will not render any article neutral, although individual points may be edited for obscene or inflammatory content. Finally, the articles published in the Panther Press do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors or advisors.
Conservatism at Strath Haven