Beyond the Bubble

Political campaigns and elections are a regular fixture of the American democracy. They shape the nation’s future leadership and direction. This past week, on January 15, the 2024 Iowa Caucus was held as one of the first of many elections that will culminate in the 2024 presidential election. These elections, built upon the principles of democracy, underscore the importance of civic engagement and informed participation. As some students in the Class of 2024 and Class of 2025 find themselves nearing the cusp of legal voting age, we need to recognize the significance of being well-informed in politics and the role that it plays in our lives.

All too often, when faced with the need to form our own opinions about potentially sensitive topics, we choose the ‘easy’ path of following herd mentality at Andover. It relieves us of the responsibility to properly educate ourselves and truly understand the background, details, and nuances of what we are supporting. It gives us the comfort of being with the majority, putting us at less of a risk of ostracization. However, politics is something that you cannot merely engage with at a surface level. According to the About page on Andover’s website, the academy aims to have students “question beliefs, systems, and the ways things are done, [pressing students] to envision the world they seek to create.” With the reductive ‘herd politics’ prevalent at Andover, students often do not question beliefs, systems, and the way things are done.
The general Andover population rarely engages in productive conversations, preferring to avoid contrarianism. But these conversations are about you and your peers as people, not members of a political party. Focus on developing each of your ideas and perspectives through curious ‘questioning’ rather than where you stand within a larger context of established political ideologies. Adopting this perspective allows you to appreciate the subtleties beyond simply Republican and Democrat, Conservative and Liberal. The goal isn’t to come out of these conversations as a new member of a political party but rather a more informed member of society, a more knowledgeable global citizen with opinions that you can stand by.

Most Andover students will not be able to fully form a political worldview during their time at Andover, and that’s likely a good thing. We spend the majority of our time in the Andover bubble, and although there are ample opportunities to engage with legislation and political issues from student groups, we are largely exposed to only select political views out of the larger political climate beyond Andover. There can often be pressure throughout our Andover careers to “take a stance” on political and global developments. However, the deeper implications of these declarations sometimes are left ignored, instead replaced by the brief joy of being “in the right.” At the end of the day, it’s perfectly acceptable to be unsure about what beliefs are. It’s probably better to acknowledge your confusion about an issue and keep your mind open to new perspectives and information. As students in an institution that strives to produce global citizens, we should allow ourselves the time to properly digest global developments and how we feel about them. Resist the urge to dismiss voices from those “on the other side,” and take initiative in cultivating your beliefs.

With the upcoming election, which inevitably will bring great political turmoil and debate, now is the time to start engaging in these kinds of conversations. Whether it be through political clubs on campus or with the people around you, it is up to students to create dialogue at Andover and stay in touch. This can begin with personal accountability, like reading the news more often to become more comfortable with the political landscape. While it may feel intimidating to speak up when your view is not the dominant one, it is extremely important to disagree and voice your opinions, especially in the political context. Disagreement and conversation are where growth is rooted, and thus we need to continue voicing ourselves.