Opinion: Fostering Political Diversity at CA

Helen Wu '19

Concord Academy prides itself on its diversity of backgrounds and perspectives. Our ability to engage diligently and passionately in conversations about social justice and politics defines the environment for activism at our school. There are two components that make these conversations successful: active participation and richness in perspectives. While the CA community willingly participates in conversations about social justice and politics, these often lack diverse political perspectives.

Oftentimes, social reform and liberalization are commonly associated with political parties, which is an impediment to increasing awareness and support for many social issues. A tangible example of unnecessary politicization is climate change, which is considered a democratic objective when it should be a concern shared by all. If people can separate social justice issues with politics, it might be easier to accept people with different political views.

In this way, political diversity can make the conversations at CA more productive, providing the community with the possibility to discuss social justice and politics from an array of perspectives and discover the multidimensionality behind these social and political issues.

Often at CA, those with differing political beliefs are ostracized and shut down. Our community, in the past, often equated liberal beliefs with a dedication to social justice and inclusion. Alternately, those with more conservative leanings were painted as people with disregard for issues around diversity. However, the phrase “diversity and inclusion are not partisan issues”  has emerged recently on campus. Essentially, it separates social justice issues from politics, since the ability to care for a social justice movement should not depend on one’s political identity. With this way of thinking, more people may be inclined to support the issues that they deem important, rather than what their political party

        To improve the activism in our community, it is important to encourage political discourse and not shy away from difficult conversations. Political disagreement stems from a diversity of opinions—mainly differing political perspectives. While it may be intimidating to engage in conversations with people who have differing opinions, political discourse can be carried out respectfully and be extremely rewarding. It is possible to disagree with others while still being respectful and listening to their opinion. Since many guidelines are already set in place for social justice conversations at our school, it is possible to implement these guidelines in political conversations too. Some examples of these guidelines include: speak from the “I” perspective, listen actively, share the air, challenge by choice, respect confidentiality, and it is okay to disagree and not have an answer. In order to foster more awareness which will improve activism, the CA community needs to embrace political diversity and create a respectful space for political conversations in order to increase awareness for positive growth

        Annie Lubin ’19, who is currently attending the School of Global Ethics and Leadership this fall semester, is working on a Social Venture Project to improve an aspect of her community. She has decided work on enriching CA’s political diversity in order to produce more fruitful conversations, foster more awareness for both domestic and international politics, and allow people to find the right channels to find reliable information.

        “I want to make some little changes at CA that will enact a greater impact” says Lubin.

        One of the ways that Annie hopes to foster political diversity is to discuss with the administration about inviting speakers with diverse viewpoints, who do not always represent the most extreme pole of a political party.

This is a step to replicate the rich political environment Lubin has experienced at SEGL: “I also didn’t know that there were so many issues in the world until I came to DC and was exposed to a variety of people with new opinions on topics I didn’t even know about.” Another task on Lubin’s agenda is to increase awareness about domestic and international current events, and motivate students to do so themselves on a daily/weekly basis. Lastly, Lubin hopes that publications like the Centipede and The Tavern can include articles and issues dedicated to increasing political awareness and promoting respectful political discourse.

“SEGL is a place that has inspired me to learn about, and discuss, so many different issues that I probably wouldn’t have had the motivation to learn of or discuss at CA. This is the type of environment I want to bring back to CA, one where people are exposed to different issues and the resulting varied viewpoints, and then inspired to look into and talk about the issues themselves”

The CA community should make political diversity a priority in its future conversations, since political diversity can allow people to view the multiple nuances of a social issue from different perspectives. It is always appropriate to disagree with someone’s viewpoint respectfully, but there needs to be opportunities for those who have outlying opinions to comfortably express themselves and feel like others value their opinion.