Political Discussions at Milton
by Dariya Subkhanberdina on Friday, February 10th, 2017
Understanding quadratics and balancing chemical equations may fill our day-to-day-lives at Milton. However, challenging beliefs and sparking difficult conversations is the essence of Milton’s “Dare to be True” motto. Daring to be true applies to the little white lies we tell here and there, but more importantly it speaks of our character and the conversations we hold in class. In the past few months, these loaded conversations have become more necessary than ever. Regarding Trump and his policies, people hold opinions that can tend to lie on two extreme ends of the spectrum.
Despite Milton’s evidently liberal majority, the student body does hold a wide variety of viewpoints. And so, controversies arise. No matter where you stand on Trump and his beliefs, his presidency has provoked obvious conflict amongst the American people. According to a CNN article from December 22nd, “The Southern Poverty Law Center counted 867 cases of hateful harassment or intimidation in the United States in the 10 days after the November 8 election.”
Not only Milton, but prep schools around the nation cherish the almighty “Harkness Method” (somehow a “unique” characteristic loved by each, yet also shared by all). During every tour I have given this admissions cycle, I automatically start gushing about the Harkness table — a quality unique to only Milton Academy. Jokes aside, Milton really does pride itself on the civil discourse across the Harkness table inspires. Expressing your opinions calmly is a much more difficult task than it seems.
Personally, I find Values class to be the highlight of my week. Those “friendly” discussions on controversial issues 7th period on a Thursday really just get the blood pumping. But other than during the occasional Values class, teachers do not explicitly seek out conversations on political issues. Wanting to stick to their meticulously crafted syllabi, or perhaps careful not to tread on any toes, teachers leave the tough conversations for outside the classroom. Ultimately though, despite the significance of stoichiometry or the Oedipus Cycle, bringing up current issues of the society we live in is just as necessary for our education.
Teachers should express their opinions and fuel conversation because we need to be treated like grown-ups. The first step to growing up is formulating one’s views and learning to defend them. The bigger question at hand, though, is whether faculty should remain at a neutral standpoint. Nothing else preps people to throw punches and shed tears like politics. Hearing opposing views not only provokes us politically but also challenges the core of who we are.
Despite Milton faculty and students’ nurturing, close-knit, and trust-based relationships with each other, there is still a natural difference in status, power, and wisdom between them. And we as students can sometimes forget that behind the whiteboard, the eight-page problem set, and the Schoology posts, teachers actually do have their own lives. What a surprise, right? Their own lives mean their own families, ambitions, and, of course, personal views. It is a lot to expect faculty to simply put everything that shapes who they are aside and sit behind a blank screen of neutrality.
However, teachers’ own beliefs can also threaten the integrity of the conversation, as most students don’t particularly enjoy challenging faculty members and everything that they value in life. I mean I don’t know about you, but I’m just trying to get to an A- in English and provoking my teacher simply does not sound like the yellow brick road to take. But does having a contrasting opinion to one’s teacher count as provoking or harassing them? I would hope not.
Therefore, it is not only natural but absolutely necessary for faculty to spark these difficult conversations here and there and see where it takes them. Learning to voice one’s views is a two-way street and the essence of education. So how about we all learn a little, “Dare to be True,” and provoke the fire of civil discourse.
Short URL: http://miltonmeasure.org/?p=8627