Is Marian predominantly liberal, or is the liberal viewpoint more socially acceptable in this facility? In these past two years of high political tension, students have become more divided, with liberal viewpoints seemingly being the most dominant. But not everyone has the same opinions. Some liberal students feel that they cannot confidently express their opinions, and some conservative students feel as if Marian is too liberal for their voices to be heard.
Social media is one of the biggest influences on a teenager’s political ideology. Users can find posts from both sides of the political spectrum, and loads of information about current events. It can encourage people to express their beliefs by posting information on their page, but this type of media can become one-sided when a group only focuses on issues from their side’s point of view. The flood of politically biased posts can blur the line between what is factual and what is opinionated. This can cause issues with misinformation and prejudice against the other side which can increase hostility between both groups. It can also lead people to mistake others’ political beliefs, causing tension between aspiring young liberals and conservatives.
The increased conflict between both parties is sometimes provoked by biased media, creating a struggle for students to confidently express their opinions with their classmates. In a school like Marian which some may see as predominantly liberal, many conservative-leaning students find themselves “faking it” to fit in. They keep quiet during political discussions, and avoid posting controversial opinions on social media. Some conservative students even write essays further to the left because they feel “outnumbered” in classes. This along, with other conflicting actions, is the only way some conservatives feel that they can fit in. Silence on social media, being untruthful on school reflection essays, and biting your tongue during class discussions can summarize how many conservative students feel voicing their opinions in predominantly one sided classrooms. Some conservative students have struggled with this because they would only be speaking for themselves and would make it known that they are (quite literally) the elephant in the room. Differing opinions come by nature, but the fear of a one sided classroom voicing that you are wrong with no one to back you up, is a fear that many crumble under.
Instances that have instilled this fear include the social media backlash students received after attending the Pro-Life March in Washington D.C. Some students in attendance posted their experience on social media, but were met with negative feedback. Several received hate comments containing backlash surrounding their ethnicity, looks, religious beliefs and mental state. Many ended up deleting their posts or deleting comments and those who left everything up did so to show how they were being treated. In regards to actual schoolwork, some conservative students take into consideration what their teacher’s perceived ideological viewpoint is and reflect their work based off of it if applicable. Essays may tend to sway away from what they actually believe due to fear of getting a lower grade. Any student can understand the importance of succeeding in a class and students are willing to dance around what they believe in order to do so. However, some liberal students feel that they, too, are unable to speak their beliefs in and out of the classroom. Some liberal Network staff members believe that they can’t talk about social issues that are affecting them because they don’t want to have a negative label or stereotype associated with their name. They’ve encountered racism and homophobia from classmates, making them feel outcasted and unwelcomed. In addition, they feel that bringing up their thoughts on an issue induces more animosity towards them, especially being pro-choice or a part of the LGBTQ+ community in a Catholic school. Some staff members felt uncomfortable speaking on it because of the fear of receiving backlash from their classmates in person and online. Many harmful words and actions were brought to light as students began holding peers accountable for being offensive. Some students especially fear that speaking up against their classmates could result in consequences from administration and the issue being taken out of proportion. With hate from the other side, no post or comment is safe.
Another big issue for students is the common problem that politics are now set into everything. Any topic can cause an argument. The frequent debate between wearing a mask or not wearing one has become a big political issue. With vaccine rollouts and COVID numbers going down, many students have preferred to go maskless. This has caused a lot of debate between peers on whether or not they really need the mask. The reality is, masks are just a necessary thing to protect your classmates and teachers from contracting a severe illness like COVID-19 and protect others’ underlying health conditions. Issues like this regarding one’s health and safety should be kept out of political discussions, yet many feel that it is the perfect topic for debate.
How does Marian combat these tensions between students? One fairly new effort the administration has brought to the table is encouraging schoolwide civil discourse. Civil discourse is a simple conversation about a social issue. It’s not intended to attack a student’s belief but helps students develop a better understanding of each other’s point of view and find similarities between their beliefs. In the past year, teachers spent time learning how to lead these conversations in their own classrooms. Marian also has a student union. The student union is a club that promotes civil debates between liberal and conservative students. The club works to bring both sides of the spectrum together, and is a great medium for students who wish to discuss bigger political topics.
Students are trying to expand their views, and figure out where they lay on the political spectrum. The fear of voicing your opinions shouldn’t stop you. It’s normal to grow in and out of your beliefs and find yourself supporting new ideas, and it’s ok if you find yourself in between. In order to find common ground, not only do you need to embrace your own opinions, but embrace the opinions of others as well. Opinions depend on where you are and who you’re with. These will grow and change over time, and so will you. It’s crucial to normalize differing opinions in order to evolve, and Marian is headed in that exact direction. By creating an environment in which everyone’s voices can be heard and welcomed, we can bring both sides together without controversy.