City and Country is renowned for having a progressive pedagogy. The community shares a liberal mindset where all students feel included, protected and can learn without the added pressure of letter grades thrusted onto their shoulders. C&C has been this way for over a century, and the students still feel like they want to go to school every day, instead of them feeling that they are forced to go to school.
In addition, C&C kids are also encouraged to always have a voice. Many groups have discussion-led classes, such as Community Meeting, Current Events, Social Studies, and many more, which is the perfect opportunity for students to share what they think.
Within these discussion-based classes, there are many instances where opinions can be contradicting among peers. This is a very common event, especially in the XIIIs. As the oldest group of students in the school, the XIIIs are expected to be the most mature. When children become more mature, they often
become more rational and critically minded people, realizing what the world they live in is really like.
In the modern world, politics have become a part of daily life. It is widespread in the news, and every hourly news broadcaster finds a way to somehow make a story involving politics or politicians. In the XIIIs, politics are the main focus when talking about Current Events. Since politics has appeared in their lives at an overwhelming rate, it is inevitable that the XIIIs will talk about politics everyday at school.
At Lunch, a social time for students, a certain table of the XIIIs love to talk about politics. Over the years, a few XIIIs have changed their perspectives of politics, and like to engage in friendly debates with their friends about what is going on in our country right now. From the border wall separating Mexico and the United States, to abortion and whether or not it should be legal, the students at this specific XIIIs table are frequently bouncing up and down during Lunch. XIIIs are immensely engaged in the world we live in. One of the best parts of political discussions is that it is all about personal beliefs and opinions. Many people at this lunch table love to converse about politics but do not necessarily consider themselves interested in politics or very opinionated people.
Even though the XIIIs, as well as members of the C&C community in general, have stimulating conversations about politics, a more conservatively minded person is bound to feel at least a little uncomfortable during these discussions.
For example, imagine how a Trump-supporting Republican would have felt in the XIs when Trump’s inauguration was shown while some students took their last breaths of what they referred to as “Obama air.” They ran around desperately trying to duct tape Ziploc bags filled with air. Even today some people brag about having their precious “Obama air.”
Another example is when the current XIIIs had a Community Meeting when they were XIs about Trump winning the election instead of Social Studies. Many students felt that because Trump won, that it was the worst day of their life and some people even said they woke up to their family crying. Hearing all of their classmates and friends talk about how much they hate a political figure someone in the room may have liked can cause hurt feelings. The idea of sharing one's opinions suddenly sounds like something the class should possibly avoid.
That specific and awkward situation is a symptom of an echo chamber. An echo chamber refers to an environment in which a person encounters only beliefs or opinions that coincide with their own so that their existing views are reinforced and alternative ideas are not considered. When it comes to politics, an echo chamber is potentially dangerous, especially in this type of tight-knit community.
If someone feels that they are pressured into not being able to share their opinions or even ostracized for being someone with different perspectives in such a small group of people, people feel like they do not belong. When someone feels that it is impossible to fit in to their own school, a place where they spend everyday at, it is likely that the person’s learning is put to a halt because they are unable to focus on academics.
For a wider grasp of what the world thinks about specific topics in politics there was a study released in November, 2018, by Yale that stated an alarming 33 percent of undergraduates think that the use of violence is justified against purveyors of hate speech. The chance that someone will misconstrue the speech of some poor person and assault him is way too high for a civilized society.
The study also showed that 54 percent of undergraduates feel intimidated when sharing their political leanings. This problem most likely stems from the fact that the overwhelming majority of college professors are liberal, as the study suggested. They will not get a good reaction like a stimulating conversation when sharing a rather mean-spirited reply or just making fun of themselves. Another study, done by the National Association of Scholars, in April of 2018, stated that the ratio of professors registered as Democrat and professors registered as Republican is over ten to one; respectively.
New York City is a blue State, meaning that it is extremely probable that the State will be in favor of Democrats, which means that it is nearly inevitable that New York City will vote for a democrat congressperson in an election.
When asked whether she thinks this statement is reasonable or even true, Lola Early, XsMe, said, “Yeah, I agree. My neighborhood has the least amount of Trump supporters in all of New York [City].” Especially in a city full of democrats, some conservatives find it hard to speak out against the norms.
When we asked if she sees this as a good or bad thing, Lola said “It's a good thing.” However, she did not provide any evidence. She also said that she did not think the infamous Mexico and United States Border Wall was “such a bad idea,” which means she is a pretty far left-leaning person as well.
Michele Bloom, the Director of Middle and Upper School, said, “I think for kids that have a minority opinion or perspective, it is not very easy for them to articulate that. I think there is a [political] divide.” This means that there are many more Democrats and left-leaning students then right-leaning in C&C which can make it hard to share less popular opinions. Michele also said, “I think it's by and large a left-leaning community. I think there is a lot of diversity in the left and what that looks like… it's not that black and white.”
Students of all ages are aware of the going-ons in the great world of politics. This was proven true by Zach Fisher and Paolo Velez, students in the VIIIsJ, when they said they both followed politics whether it be by seeing the morning news or overhearing their parents. That being said, Michele does not think that young children, such as the VIIIs, should be talking about political topics such as the president. She said, “I don't think that eight or nine years should talk about politics. I don’t think that they should be talking about the president, for example.”
Michele agrees that there is some political hegemony amongst students but said, “You’re in school so I would like to believe that there is kind of a healthy sense of curiosity” on the subject of students finding their own opinions.
Students should try to expand their knowledge and not make assumptions or take sides because there are more people on one side than the other. One of the best ways to understand opposition and learn is to talk and to interact with people who have different opinions. When asked if they knew anybody that was more right-leaning in their group, three students in the Xs failed to name anyone. This could be for two reasons. One, they were afraid to express their opinions because of mob mentality or were scared of being exposed or there really were nobody under that category, both of which are not very joyous outcomes.
However, since New York is the home of C&C, being amid Democrats should be expected for Republicans in our community. There are three significantly right-leaning students in the XIIIs group. It makes sense that the oldest group of the whole school have the most right-leaning people in class or at least the most diverse group of children when it comes to politics, but that is the frightening part. People will start to be more afraid to step out and push their ideas forward. The goal of political conversation is not only to beat your debate partner but to gain a better understanding of others’ views. This cannot be done if our culture creates echo chambers. The best way to stop echo chambers is to do research. Next time a parent or friend is spouting political rhetoric they heard on the news, do the research. Any politically relevant figure, whether they be on television, the internet, or in office, just agree that researching skills is one of if not the most important ingredients to create politically intelligent person.