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Some Students Hesitant to Share Political Views

By Berkeley Boyd
Staff Writer | The Pacific Times

NP3 High is a diverse community with varying political views.

According to school students and administration, NP3 creates opportunities for students to express their political beliefs via Socratic seminars, class debates, mock elections, and essays about personal beliefs graded on quality and not content.

NP3 has also held anonymous mock elections, which are meant to give students the experience of voting. The 2020 mock Primary Election results were split. Of the 192 students who voted, 75 cast votes for Senator Bernie Sanders, while 20 voted for former President Donald Trump. There was also support for Andrew Yang and Elizabeth Warren, with a combined total of 44 votes. Current president Joe Biden received nine votes — 128 out of 192 voted for candidates from the Democratic Party, with 20 voting for a candidate from the Republican Party.

The mock General Election, was held only for the 12th-grade government class also showed this diversity, with 81 responses yielding 66.7% votes for Democratic candidate Joe Biden and 12.3% for Republican Donald Trump. In contrast, candidate Gloria La Riva from the Party for Socialism and Liberation received 9.9%.

Politics are often controversial and divisive and have been for a while. However, there has been an increase in polarization between the right and left in more recent times, especially during the pandemic, due to the lack of debates about differing beliefs in immigration, critical race theory, wage disparity, and more.

Students interviewed by The Pacific Times, who self-identified as being politically moderate or conservative, said they felt NP3 was not a safe space to voice their views or opinions and asked to remain anonymous for this article.

In contrast, students who self-identified as left-leaning said they were more open to sharing their political views, and most shared their names for publication. However, some wished to remain anonymous because they were unsure whether their friends agreed with their opinions. According to the interviewed students, this is due to the more vocal left-leaning population at school.

“Not a lot of people are libertarian or have the same view as me or will be able to understand why I hold certain beliefs. I feel like I would be harshly criticized by my peers,” said an 11th grader who identified as a Libertarian.

Another 12th-grade Republican student said they believed their peers would reject them for sharing their views. “Not a lot of people are right-leaning and I feel like I would be harshly criticized. I pretend to be a Democrat in my government class because of this fear.”

The main reason conservative students said they are hesitant to share their own views while at school is because they are scared that other students would not accept them because of differing political views.

Principal Melissa Mori said she wants all students to feel comfortable sharing their personal views at school. She is interested in creating a council of students to discuss how classroom conversations about controversial issues and politics can better represent all political beliefs at school.

Mori added that if students are unwilling to share their views with her while other students are present, she is willing to talk to them one-on-one to get their input. She will hold a tutorial next week to discuss with students their concerns and what she can do to make the campus a safe and more open space for them.

“I feel like I would make people mad and they would try to debate with me and I just don’t feel like arguing with people,” said a politically moderate student, explaining their reason for not sharing their beliefs.

On the other hand, a 12th grader who self-identifies as a moderate Democrat said, “I feel like I can somewhat share my political beliefs because I wish to be more informed about a topic before engaging in a discussion about it.”

Many of the students interviewed by The Pacific Times who identified themselves as being more politically liberal also felt they could be more open about their beliefs and opinions while at school.

“I can be open about my political views because I believe that you won’t be shot down at NP3,” said 12th-grader Fernando Serratos, who identifies as a Democrat. “I can say what I want to say and there won’t be any negative social repercussions or judgments by my peers.”

Added a 12th grader who identifies as being Democratic Socialist, “I believe I can be open about my political views because I’m a democratic socialist and other people share similar views about equality and fundamental rights.”

“I believe I can be somewhat open about my political beliefs because I know other people have other views and I want school to be a peaceful place where everyone is respected,” said Aiden Grover, a 12th grader who said he’s a Democrat. “I understand other students have different opinions and I respect that, but still feel frustrated or confused at why they hold those beliefs.”

Students told The Pacific Times that sometimes actions and opinions of other students at times made them feel uncomfortable and not just around politics.

One 12th grade student said they felt uncomfortable when they heard, “Homophobic students would say they don’t like gay people and as a gay individual, I find that incredibly hurtful and offensive.”

Some students said that sometimes it’s teachers and not other students who make them feel uncomfortable when it comes to politics.

A 12th grader who identifies as being Republican said, “Some teachers over-express their opinions or assume that students have the same opinions. However, others like Mr. Peacock are very good at playing both sides in the debates in government class.”

An 11th grader who identifies as Libertarian said they felt discomfort when “A teacher who was strongly for the war in Afghanistan was voicing their opinions in class and I felt I couldn’t argue against him cause he holds power over me.”

In response to this student Mori said, “As a school community, we have discussed the importance of creating safe classroom spaces for students to comfortably voice their opinions on current issues.”

The Pacific Times sought interviews with ten different teachers at NP3 High. While two declined to share their opinions, eight teachers said they believe NP3 was a safe place to be politically open and share their views.

“I feel we have this sense of community and trust, and we know what to say and what not to say,” said Dulce Hernandez, a Spanish teacher at NP3.

Jonathan Peacock, NP3’s Advanced Placement and Common Placement Government and Personal Finance teacher, also believes students can be open about their opinions.

“Generally, NP3 is a very tolerant and open place. I try to make sure everyone’s able to express their political views,” he said. “I’m pretty hard to offend and I’m comfortable with all kinds of political views.”

James Felt, an Algebra 1 and Statistics teacher, said teachers, faculty, and other students have come together with a sort of unwritten rule to respect different views.

“I only get uncomfortable when students ask me for my political views,” Felt explained. “I get uncomfortable as a person in a position of power-sharing them out in front of the class because I don’t want to influence students’ views. However, if a student approaches me personally, then I would be willing to discuss political topics.”

Students who wish to contact Principal Mori directly may email her at [email protected].

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