Do you know any Republican or right-leaning students personally? Some of you may, but many of you probably do not. Before I started working on an article for my journalism class about the Republican presence at Carleton, I couldn’t think of any right-leaning students who I knew.
This seems wrong. Carleton is a school that takes pride in a commitment to diversity; does this not apply to political diversity? Of course, choosing to attend a notoriously liberal college is largely a self-selecting process. Don’t come here if you’re not liberal, right?
Maybe, but the fact is, right-leaning students do attend Carleton and, from what I’ve noticed, there is a frustrating combination of self-silencing and group-hushing that results in little non-left discourse. Right-leaning students do not feel like they can share their opinions.
Am I left-leaning? Definitely. In many ways I’ve really enjoyed being surrounded by like-minded peers. But, I also worry that I have become lazy and complacent with my opinions. In high school, I had to defend and argue for my beliefs. I was forced by my peers to be articulate and quick-minded. Now, almost everyone agrees with me. The main discourse at Carleton inside and outside the classroom seems to be had between the more liberal and the less liberal. Is that really a discourse?
On the occasion that someone shares an opinion that opposes the liberal majority, they are usually shut down with a “don’t say that,” or “no, you’re wrong” or “that’s problematic.” What does “problematic” even mean? Legitimate debate is hard to come by and sometimes, true discussion seems like it doesn’t exist.
We are losing something. We are at Carleton in order to learn and engage with intellectual ideas. It seems dangerous for people our age to know exactly what we think about issues. I, for sure, don’t know exactly what I think about a lot of things, and I don’t want to. I want to weigh different opinions and then reassess my own without worrying about fitting in or being liked.
We, the Carleton community— students, faculty and staff—need to engage each other in real debate and discussion. I want us, as a community, to get in the practice of not taking the easy way out by agreeing with popular ideology.
Righteous, one-sided liberal discourse is anti-intellectual, as is name calling and silencing. If someone says something that is offensive, or that you just disagree with, take the time to educate them about your opinions. We can’t expect, nor should we want, to make everyone agree with each other, but we should seek to reach greater understandings of a diversity of views.
Write about your opinions and see how well you can support them. Discuss your views with someone who thinks differently than you and see if you can come away feeling like you taught and learned something. Continue to call out those who are offensive, and insensitive, but also call out those who are silencing others. We are all complicit and we all need to become more thoughtful about what we believe.