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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Beyond “liberal” and “conservative”

<u know it’s the typical college. Students are divided into two groups, liberal and more liberal.”

Oh, the amount of times I’ve heard iterations of this statement. Whether it is with my relatives, in the first paragraph of some New York Times op-ed or most anyone really, the perception of many American colleges as these suffocatingly liberal echo chambers is quite widespread.
Well, how will you all feel when I say that I genuinely believe that we are not an echo chamber? The definition of an echo chamber is an enclosed space for producing reverberation of a sound. The persistent argument that all this campus reverberates a common liberal noise just doesn’t cut it for me, at Carleton or similar colleges.

For one, I hate using terms like “liberal” and “conservative” to describe people’s viewpoints. As a Political Science/IR major, I know that the meaning and the application of these terms has drastically varied throughout time and continues to vary in different contexts. The whole idea of “socially liberal and fiscally conservative” is a prime example of the mess of ideology classification.

At the same time though, in 21st century America, there are some general ideas associated with liberalism, such as support for social welfare programs. Is Carleton, thus, predominantly associated with these liberal qualities? Of course. However, a campus with much of the same general viewpoint does not equal an echo chamber.

The overwhelming majority of classes I have personally taken at Carleton have been based in a discussion format. Through these discussions, I have learned that my classmates, most of whom could be considered “liberal,” have held quite diverse views on subjects.

A common point brought up by many social justice activists is that there is the right to disagree on issues that do not dehumanize people. For instance, there is no moral right to oppose protections for members of the LGBTQ community, as that is severely dehumanizing. However, there can absolutely be respectful discourse on say, regulations for certain types of medications. In a nutshell, if no dehumanization is going on, conversations can happen. Thus, through my numerous class discussion experiences, I know it is absolutely possible to have complex and engaging discourse (in my opinion, the opposite of an echo chamber) while still not dehumanizing anyone.

If there is anything most Carls have in common in regards to their political ideologies, it is the belief against dehumanization. Obviously, Carleton, being the imperfect place it is, still has issues with discrimination and dehumanization. The Carleton community has recognized this flaw, though, and many within the community are actively working to fight it.

I am probably going to get attacked for this article. People on the “conservative” side will say that I’m not recognizing the supposedly apparent discrimination their ideologies face. Then people on the “liberal” side will say that I’m not recognizing the systems of oppression in place at this institution. Both will call me “naive.”  

I recognize the ideas of both these sides. Sure, students with more right-wing may feel represented and, like I said before, systems of oppressions are still alive and well at Carleton. I am writing because what encompasses “liberal” and “conservative” values encompasses a lot more than what many of us may think. Therefore, Carleton is home to many so different ideologies, that “liberal” and “conservative” are nowhere near doing justice.

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