A Place for Conservatives

The goal of any educational enterprise is to provoke intelligence and to help students strive towards their goals, both as individuals and as scholars. As the best of the best, Phillips Academy is the poster child of the independent school family, giving children from all corners of the globe the opportunity to make a difference. However, recently I have come to understand that perhaps Phillips Academy does not live up to its excellent reputation as an institution focused on building character inside and outside the classroom. As a poignant Phillipian comic from the MLK Day issue so eloquently pointed out, segregation is still an issue. Since then, I have come to realize that, along with segregation, our beloved private school has serious issues with gender relations, economic diversity, and especially, political sensitivity. We attend a school of hypocrisy, I dare to say. Andover carries the glowing image of a politics-blind institution, open to all students, regardless of political background or party. As a Republican, I have found that I have no place at Phillips Academy to express my “radical” views on our economic situation, foreign policy, or, most importantly, war on Iraq (except for the Republican Club, run by a small contingent of “radicals,” as most of the community thinks of them). At a place where students are encouraged to “stand up for their rights,” it is especially upsetting that I am so afraid to express my political views. Our school prides itself on being a place of scholars and intellectuals. Yet, all too often, the intellectual teachers and students of Andover are too obtuse to accept non-Democratic or conservative views as anything other than “unintelligent.” Yes, it is great to see students travel to New York and Washington, DC, to protest the war in Iraq and stand up for causes in which they believe. However, had a group of students traveled to the Vietnam War Memorial and held a rally in support of American troops in Iraq, not only would that have been undeserving of public appreciation for their good deed, but it would have been deemed “unintelligent” and downright wrong. Why is it that, at Phillips Academy, if I am in favor of immediate action in Iraq, I am stupid? On more than one occasion, I have expressed my views about a possible war on Iraq to a teacher or scholarly student and become the subject of a feeble attempt to “make me understand.” What is there to understand? Why can’t I simply believe something, whether it be against the “school’s opinion” or not, and have people accept me for it? Should teachers be allowed to preach their politics to their students? I know that many teachers preach anti-Bush sentiments openly to their students. How are those beliefs any different from religious beliefs? Are teachers allowed to preach their religion to information-hungry students? No. We live in a community of the suburban town of Andover, Massachusetts. A community grows and lives together; a community makes sacrifices to support itself; a community accepts those within it; and above all, a community has respect for its members. It is a tough time to be a Republican, and an even tougher time to be one at Phillips Academy, Andover. Offering so little support to stand up for what I believe in, the Academy really is not much of a community. When members of the community are deemed “unintelligent” by their peers simply because of their political views, all sense of community is lost. Political prejudice is no different than racism, religious prejudice, or gender discrimination. I am offended that some are allowed to protest openly in support of their political views, yet I am confined to myself and the few who are not so stubborn as to understand my positions, whether or not they agree with them. I have lived at Phillips Academy my entire life, and I have never been more ashamed of the institution which I attend.