Students Weigh in on Political Discussions at Pres

The way we talk about politics has changed a lot since November. This has become especially evident in the classroom, where students who share a minority view often don’t feel comfortable sharing their opinions. Here, three of our staff members talk about their own experiences as a Democrat, independent, and Republican.

Valerie Wu, Christina Dobbek, and Marie Hayes


By Valerie Wu

Before the results of the 2016 election, teachers weren’t afraid to share their thoughts on the candidates. Many spoke fondly of Hillary Clinton, and before November, discussions often consisted of all the ways in which she would win, or all the ways in which Trump supporters wouldn’t. I heard one teacher compare being a modern Republican to getting the wrong answer on an easy test.

Since the election, Americans have framed their political views as not just different, but downright divisive. This is clear even at Pres. Instead of the honest, open conversation of the past, politics at Pres is now characterized by behind-the-scenes dialogue and uneasy atmospheres within the classroom.

Partly, this is because the Republican party has moved so far right in the past few decades that their previous platform of small government and lower corporate taxes has been obliterated by conservative Christian and tea party policies that seem to focus almost entirely on oppressing immigrants, women, and the LGBT community.

Yet ironically, Republican students tend to view themselves as oppressed because speaking their opinions about immigration, affirmative action, gay marriage, or climate change are often met with silence or whispering from the majority of students who disagree with them.

Certainly, it can be difficult when your opinions are in the minority, but perhaps our conservative students should consider why so few Pres girls agree with them. When “opinions” consist of denying civil rights for the people that need them or disenfranchising minorities, the issue is far beyond just debating economic policy or government regulation.

And if their “opinion” is that climate change isn’t real, that isn’t an opinion at all–it’s just scientifically inaccurate. No one should have to coddle students who don’t understand basic science.

As students, we should have open discussion without censoring ourselves, but also acknowledge that there’s a difference between free speech and hate speech. As long as what we say doesn’t endanger the rights of minorities, we–including Republicans–have the right to our opinions.

Yet if what Republican students are saying denies the dignity of immigrants, the LGBT community, religious and ethnic minorities, and women–as more conservative opinions are leaning towards–then what they’re saying is classified as hate speech. It’s very common for Republican students to accuse Democrats of preventing them from speaking out about their own issues, but at the same time we have to consider whether these views are merely conservative, or if they degrade fellow students and harm Pres’ reputation as a safe space.

That being said, I do think that some “democratic” values are inclusive, no matter what your beliefs are. Equal rights should be universal. Cultural diversity should be universal. Access to education should be universal. I don’t say this as a Democrat, but as a human being. That distinction is what we, as Pres students, should be focusing on: thinking about our classmates as not politicians, but as fellow humans.

As a Democrat, I’m not trying to hurt Republicans. I’m trying to further my own inclusivity as a student of color and as an Asian American living in America. I can’t debate with someone who believes in white supremacy, or someone who doesn’t think climate change exists; I can’t argue with someone knowing that they don’t respect my opinions or even my basic rights as a human being.

To that end, I also could stand to have more discussions with Republican students to discover if they actually hold any of the extreme right-wing beliefs that are so offensive or if they have a more nuanced view. We shouldn’t automatically assume that Republicans are racist or homophobic or anti-woman. Instead, we should make an effort to understand them. We should allow all students to express their thoughts before we judge them.

Once we start to accept this premise, then we can appreciate Pres for what it should be: a curation of diverse perspectives, ones that are not only essential to understanding our student body, but our nation as a whole.


By Christina Dobbek

I’ve got a confession: I’m a Republican. I know what you’re thinking, but before you go chasing after me calling me a racist, white supremacist bigot, hear me out. I am none of those things, and my political beliefs do not make me a worse person than you.

As I sat in class one day and eavesdropped after the election of our 45th president, I overheard the phrase “evil Republicans” come out of a classmate’s mouth. Although dissent for conservatives and our viewpoints was not a new occurrence on campus, the hateful word choice baffled me. Offended and hurt, I wondered how someone could think that my political views define me as an evil person.

While teachers and students at Presentation claim to be accepting of everyone’s views, I find that often not to be the case. In the so-called progressive climate of Presentation High School, I personally feel unwelcome in many of my classes and amongst many of my peers. I even find myself worried that teachers will not treat me the same as other students if I offer my own political opinions in class discussions. Even as I am writing, I am afraid of the backlash from teachers and students I might get because of this article.

In the learning environment of a classroom, I have witnessed opinions being displayed as fact to students. One teacher taught about the Progressive Era versus the Republican Ascendency in the United States. Instead of letting students weigh pros and cons of each era for themselves, she told us that the Republican Ascendency was bad and the Progressive Era was good. I disagreed silently, scared to speak up and say that comment was unfair and subjective.

After President Trump’s election, many students and teachers were emotional and upset. While this is their right and is perfectly understandable, some teachers made inappropriate and biased remarks regarding the election. One teacher told my class that if students were too “distraught,” they didn’t have to do work that day. Would Trump supporters get the same treatment if Clinton had won the election? Although I personally did not support Trump, I was scared for Hillary’s policies, as many were scared for Trump’s.

Another teacher was crying on the day after the election as she said that she had “lost all hope for women’s rights.” While Trump had made some controversial statements about women, this does not mean that Republican policy is sexist or threatening to women. I felt offended because, as a woman, I am obviously a supporter of women’s rights. Conservatives are not inherently anti-woman; in fact, there is even a group called Republicans for Choice that favors pro-choice reproductive rights.

Republicans hold very diverse opinions based on life experience and personal beliefs. Many Republicans, including myself, are not Trump supporters. Those who do support him, however, deserve the same respect as everyone else. Not all Republicans identify with white supremacist groups. Believe it or not, racist groups can be found within both sides of the political spectrum. Not all Republicans are anti-LGBT. A group called Log Cabin Republicans advocates for equal rights for LGBT people. Wow, who knew?

Though the way I view public policy is a minority in my school, I should never be afraid to hold these views. High school is hard enough as it is trying to fit in without the worry of being hated because of where you are on the political spectrum. In order to be a more nurturing environment for all students, we must learn to put our differences aside and respect each others’ opinions. We are the future of politics, and the only way successful policy can be achieved is through healthy debate, never through hate.


By Marie Hayes

Black and White. Dark and Light. Good and Bad. Democrat and Republican. It seems that our two main political parties have never been more separated. Is there any hope for Pres students who find themselves somewhere in the middle?

Since the election, most politicians focus more on fighting and less on actual legislation. This is the basis for being an unassigned or independent voter (not to be confused with the ultra conservative American Independent Party). Instead of focusing on beating out political rivals, as an independent I can focus on what changes I want to see in government. It seems I am not the only one who wishes to see progress; according to  Pew Research, 39% of Americans consider themselves independent.

My view of the political world revolves around results, meaning that I stick to more moderate policies. For me policies are not about pressing my viewpoints onto another, as that would be the antithesis of democracy. I acknowledge the need for compromise, meaning many of the policies I support are not leaning towards any one party, but recognize and represent the will of all Americans (including the “basket heads” and “deplorables”).

Lately, the decisive political climate has led to an increase in hostility, slowly slipping into the classrooms of Presentation High School. No one is safe from a small quip about Donald Trump’s blunders or the “fragile snowflake hearts” of the liberal.

Although I believe that current events should be talked about in class, I find the constant blame game to be counterproductive. For me, school is a place to safely analyze and question past and present historical events, but there is no point of mindlessly rambling on about the corruption of the current political administration.

Politics, although messy and emotional, is not a war. The parties are meant to work together to find a solution. However, the problem has gotten worse the more the parties divide. So I ask that we all have empathy for each other, listen to another person’s problems and understand their side of the argument. That way instead of inciting violent and corrosive debates we can create a productive administration that works for everyone.

That means in class we speak about the negatives and the positives of all platforms and administrations. This, I hope, can create a more representative and productive government and safe place where all voices can be heard.