Westport’s conservative minority struggles for representation

Growing up in Westport can be difficult for all students, whether it be educational challenges, struggles with friendships or stress induced challenges. But one of the struggles that is almost never mentioned and may be one of the most difficult, is being part of Westport’s conservative minority.

After taking various humanities classes at Staples, I have been judged by a class of people who have already decided they are correct, and I am wrong. “Ignorant,” “heartless,” and “racist” are some of the words I have had to face on a weekly basis while trying to express my views.

An anonymous liberal student agreed that there is a strong dislike of conservative minded students. “I don’t see a solution to the tension and dislike to Republican students, but it’s a mutual dislike,” the student said.

Apart from the name calling, I have seen Westport’s liberal bias in most of my classes, as they neglect to represent or teach conservative ideologies. This has been especially prominent in English, government A and unfortunately, even with Inklings.

Trying to represent your beliefs when the entire class and often times the teacher disagree, can be very difficult. For example, whenever criticism of the Democratic politicians comes into play, students and teachers will look to defend themselves by countering with arguments that call Donald Trump racist, irrational or unqualified; or maybe just saying how members of the GOP are “heartless” and “irrational.”

This biased learning environment has been certainly challenging for conservative high schoolers, but is not contained to Staples. It also exists in Westport’s middle schools. Catey Lasersohn of Hopkins ’19 felt the pressure was too strong to concede to liberal ideology, so she transferred to Hopkins School following eighth grade graduation.

“A lot of teachers shared their political views which was uncomfortable when I had different views. No one saw anything wrong with it. I was the only one who saw the other side to it,” Lasersohn stated.

Even with the opportunity of being able to voice my opinions, it is often times quite uncomfortable as a conservative reporter for Inklings. Staples teachers and students alike will attack conservative ideology, creating a one sided discussion, and this is wrong.  To feel uncomfortable in saying one’s beliefs goes against all of Staples’ moral guidelines.

Although there are some classes where teachers will do their best to remain independent or play devil’s advocate, the classroom environments where it feels safer to have controversial discussions are ones where teachers are tolerant of opposing viewpoints and host discussion in a civilized manner.   

Many conservatives might think that my sticking with Inklings for two years might have been hell. And to an extent it has been. But staying with Inklings has been more about representing the conservative minority of Westport and being a voice for the students who feel too intimidated to speak their opinions in class.

In solving this issue, I encourage teachers to tolerate different opinions and not silence opposition. Educating students to see both sides to an issue and react to it in a civilized way is part of being a well educated and respectful student and faculty member at Staples High School. Name calling and mockery reflect an uneducated student who cannot tolerate the opinions of others. Speaking up for your political beliefs can be far more powerful than one may think.