Conservative viewpoints not tolerated at THHS

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I’m a conservative Republican at Townsend Harris High School, a rarity in a school filled with liberals, leftists, and socialists. I am not, as many believe me to be, a racist, bigot, or homophobe.  Being a conservative, I believe in the American Dream and hold my core Judeo-Christian values closely.

At THHS, we’ve fostered a community belief that all conservative values and all Republican ideas are inherently offensive and should be silenced. We justify the censorship of conservative and right leaning ideals in our school based on over-generalizations with intent to misrepresent conservatives. At THHS, political correctness reigns supreme in our halls and classrooms. I have seen instances of students and teachers conveying their left-wing viewpoints, while the opportunity for a student to defend any conservative view is shut down by the majority.

I’m not comfortable speaking up in class to defend or introduce my views. At times, it seems as if I have been socially conditioned to keep quiet. I’ve become fully aware that, if I introduce my view in any classroom lesson or discussion, I would be subjected to accusations of misogyny, racism, and bigotry. It’s a challenging experience to be in a classroom where your opinions are held under a microscope and met with glaring eyes. It has seemingly become the norm that when classroom conversations segue into relevant and current real-world discussion, it’s time for conservative students to put their heads down and ride out the social justice storm.

I believe schools should be a platform for learning and enrichment. An open-minded environment that allows students and teachers to share different, and at times conflicting thoughts with each other. Our school’s biases and unilateral teachings create an atmosphere where conservative speech is looked down upon by the self-righteous. There is no room for debate, no room for discussion, and no room for any productive conversation to take place. Who decides that one view is inherently right and the other is mere bigotry?

Political correctness has blinded THHS and dug us into a deeper hole of societal censorship and close-mindedness. Why is it that following President Trump’s travel ban students had to sit through lectures on “American rights and values” throughout the day? And yet after the New York City Truck Attack or the Kate Steinle verdict, we didn’t discuss topics of national security and immigration reform? Last year an email was sent to students regarding President Trump’s Travel Ban, in which an administrator stated, “ I personally never thought I would see the day when our country would turn individuals with visas & green cards away.” Despite that the confusion about the interpretation of the President’s executive order was later clarified a day prior, the administrator still chose to send the email. Why is it that Townsend Harris administrators chose to send such a politically driven message to students?  While teaching lessons about humanitarianism is not completely a liberal viewpoint, the framing of the email is extremely questionable and concerning. Furthermore, the email stated that as Harrisites, “We are a community that celebrates diversity, respect for others, and taking care of each other.” Implying what exactly? That “ New Yorkers, Queens Residents and Harrisites” who supported President Trump’s actions do not respect and take care of each other? Blanket statements like these are simple over-generalizations with intent to misrepresent conservative opinions.

I am not declaring that all students and teachers have this close-minded ideology.  I believe that THHS has and continues to foster a culture of political standards. The walkout recently displayed just how second nature this has become to Harrisites.  The leniency to liberal movements by our school and the Department of Education (DOE) is astonishing. As stated in a “Note to Families Regarding the National Walkout,” special rules were put into place for students to walk out and cut class without repercussions. Despite my disagreement with the walkout message, I believe in allowing students to exercise their First Amendment right in the form of civil disobedience. However, consider that the roles were switched. Would our school and the DOE grant the same privileges to conservatives to walk out for the preservation of the Second Amendment or a protest on illegal immigration?  

I don’t understand why it was the PTA’s job to send out a petition to students and parents to support the National Walkout in March and the Student Union’s responsibility to recruit Harrisites for a politically motivated agenda in an email titled “Tonight is An Evening of Action.” Regardless of the sentiment behind the movement, it is not up to the school to peddle out these agendas, nor is it up to the students to enforce it. I did not observe the walkout, as I did not agree with the message of banning assault rifles and protesting the NRA under the guise of memorializing 17 fallen students. Would it solely have been a moment of silence honoring their lives, I would have gladly observed it. I understand that many would disagree with my stance on this, but your right to protest should equal to my right to abstain. I had felt the scorn of my classmates after I declined to participate and also when they had returned following the walkout to find me sitting in my seat. Why am I not entitled to the same right to an opinion? Hypocrisy at its finest.

As a conservative, I know that it’s not right to have one idea to reign dominantly. I value the diversity of thought above all else when having a conversation. Engaging in dialogue with someone who has an opposing or different opinion allows you to gain an understanding of their perspective. Harrisites should not continue to live in this bubble of intellectual conformity and close-mindedness. There is no benefit in subjecting oneself to one opinion as eventually, the bubble will burst.

To all the liberals and left wing thinkers, I say, check your privilege. Your privilege to speak freely without repercussions goes both ways.  Townsend Harris, you say that you open the doors to allow the rich and the poor to take their seats together, but you do not open the doors to those with different viewpoints. Principal Condon has stressed the importance of having students voices heard in classrooms; however, members of the community act to cherry pick acceptable ideals. Our school was built to allow political discourse and free thinking. Townsend Harris’ mission statement reads, “We expose our students to multiple perspectives so that they will be able to appreciate various points of view.” How are we to continue to pride ourselves on this principle when we treat freedom of speech as a one-way street? Townsend Harris has failed to uphold the very principle it was built on.