Foothill is a pretty accepting and comfortable school, and while this sounds like self-promoting propaganda, it’s very true. We have a reputation of having a variety of students who are expressive of their differences, who treat Foothill like a second home.
Any Dragon can tell you about the number of bizarre and wonderful personalities that populate these halls, made evident by those who carelessly wear all sorts of outlandish attire. But, there has always been a particular group that has remained to the side of our school culture, a group we never think much of because their voice is suppressed: conservative students.
Now, the conflict of party views amongst peers isn’t unique to Foothill, there will always be opposing political ideas across our nation’s educational institutions. The question is, does Foothill itself offer an environment where conservative students feel comfortable expressing their beliefs?
Let’s start with the Foothill Dragon Press. While we ourselves don’t represent the school administration, we are student voices, and even if we aren’t the embodiment of the student body as a whole, we do have “Foothill Dragon” attached to our name. To the student community, we are as much an association with our high school as a sports team would be; and because we express specific views and opinions under the Foothill name, they feel as if their voices are being oppressed and obscured to the rest of the world. In a survey we released to our fellow peers, they made it excruciatingly clear that the opinions section doesn’t embrace a wider variety of views.
One of the participants said “I believe that a good opinion article should spark discussion and frankly that is not something that I am often witnessing,” which is a criticism that conservative students feel the rest of our viewer base is blind to. How can you be able to share your own political beliefs if everyone associates your school with one viewpoint? Suddenly, what they have to say is irrelevant because we are the medium people access our “school views” from.
“The FDP doesn’t choose conservatives to please their personal bias, and the kids cover issues in politics in the most liberal way possible,” was another reply, one that echoes frustration with their voices being overshadowed by the FDP. No matter what legal or ethical loopholes our editors throw at the public, it doesn’t change how the students feel: we are a global outlet of our school to all of society. Our voices ultimately represent theirs whether they like it or not, and they feel as if this association is constricting their own opinions.
One of my friends was appalled to see an anti-Trump cartoon on the cover of our magazine, one that was distributed across the campus. I guarantee you if a parent or outside viewer saw it, their minds would immediately be drawn to “Foothill” scrawled across the cover, not “Foothill Dragon Press”. No matter how many editorials we write, no matter how many times we make it clear that we aren’t representative of Foothill itself, the interrelation between school and press will never dissipate. Hopefully, this next year of staffers works to fix this, but only if we accept that this publication is attached to the school and to our students.
Even without glancing at our opinion section, you could tell that Foothill is a rather liberal community. When Bernie Sanders came to deliver speeches at Ventura College, a majority of our students flocked across the street, even causing a major conflict with our SBAC test participation. But, when Trump was elected as president, most of our classes fostered a gloom and some students even shed tears. As a student who isn’t even particularly fond of Trump, I felt incredibly uncomfortable as a conservative that day, because I was glad Hillary didn’t win; I could only imagine how students who fully supported our current president felt, hiding their right to be happy in a sea of disappointed peers, maybe even friends, who could turn on them for their political views.
Aubrey Lehr ’18, a student from a conservative family, had a similar experience regarding her views on the president. “I was just in art class and one for the kids walked up to me. He was like ‘Does anybody actually support Trump?’ and I raised my hand,” Lehr stated.
“He started laughing because he thought I was joking and then he stepped back after he realized that I was serious but then he started whispering about me behind his back, but I was fine with it,” she said.
Though she remained strong and wasn’t fazed by the response of this student, there is still the sense that “Foothillites” find the conservative view alien to our campus and can be shocked for no apparent reason.
It isn’t just the students either. Teachers often share their own political views while instructing class without offering the alternative view. There are teachers who use both sides of the political spectrum to teach children, but they also express their own views without considering how stressed and ostracized students of differing ideology are made. I don’t believe any of our teachers do this intentionally, as they all truly care about us as pupils, but they do make this mistake and conservative students don’t have much voice to let them know how awkward they can feel.
For Lehr, there are times where “it’s kind of hard to voice you opinion because you are going against what the majority believes” but when it comes to the staff, she feels there’s still acceptance in the atmosphere.
“Teachers don’t really make it uncomfortable it’s just harder to talk about it,” Lehr explained. Sometimes when a teacher expresses that they don’t like Trump, she’ll “go home and talk to [her] mom about it,” which is something I recommend all students who feel any of their opinions are being sheltered at school. You shouldn’t allow the school environment to affect your political and social views.
“A lot of the stuff that we hear is liberal and sometimes your views can get caught up in the mix of that, and you don’t actually know what you believe until you step back,” Lehr stated.
While Foothill isn’t exactly oppressing their conservative pupils, for a school that boasts about acceptance, we still have a lot of progress to make. To echo former President Ronald Reagan, Foothill must still work to become a “shining city upon a hill” for all students.