A Reflection on Last Year’s Election
On November 9th, 2016, it seemed as if a sense of melancholy and pensiveness shrouded the halls of Packer. A number of the typically lively students wore black as if to mourn the loss of a loved one, while others who supported the turn of events felt they had to remain silent.
After the presidential election the day prior, Packer was faced with the challenge of adapting to a national sense of change and unfamiliarity, and learning how to address sensitive subjects with open mindedness and tact. In the year since, the community has undergone much reflection of how the election has shaped both the nation and Packer as its own microcosm.
One issue that arose was the fair treatment of students with views all over the political spectrum rather than strictly on the left. The overwhelming majority of the student body held generally liberal views, making those with conservative standpoints or others the clear minority.
“I think that many students…feel afraid to speak their authentic opinions for [fear of] being misunderstood because there seems to be a level of intolerance for divergent viewpoints,” said Allison Bishop, Dean of Student Life.
Many of those who felt strongly about the issues that arose with the changing political climate decided to take action. Increased efforts were made towards addressing current events within existing clubs and affinity spaces.
Ms. Bishop explained that students turned to these groups as “a space to process,” and took advantage of the resources Packer offers in an attempt to contend with their feelings surrounding the election.
“It’s a tricky time to be a teenager, and [some] student responses mirror that. Some feel empowered to speak and act,” she added.
An example of a student that took action is Sam Tecotzky (‘18), who spent the final weeks of the summer preceding the the 2016-2017 school year at Hillary Clinton’s Brooklyn headquarters, making calls to prospective voters alongside hundreds of other volunteers. Each day’s phone calls would be different and attempt to accomplish a unique goal, whether it be urging registered Democrats to vote or engaging in conversations with registered Republicans concerning their reasons for not casting their ballot in Hillary’s name. It was the latter topic of conversation that Sam said he found most interesting.
When asked whether he thinks of a Packer as an environment that fosters meaningful conversations between those on opposite ends of the political spectrum, Sam mentioned that productive conversations are difficult to have because of the issues that are commonly brought up among the student body.
“Social issues…tend to be what a generation of high schoolers are more into, and those tend to be more polarizing,” he said. Were students to talk about different issues – such as economics or international relations – there may be more space for discussion. “But people just aren’t as interested in that, so it makes sense that there aren’t as many conversations,” Sam explained.
There are many students at Packer who consider themselves to be politically involved and engaged, but struggle in finding ways to take active roles in politics. Sam responded to the question of whether our school’s administration should create more opportunities for students to get involved in politics outside the walls of Packer with enthusiasm, explaining that taking an active role to support a candidate with whom you strongly identify is incredibly exciting.
“They should never push any sort of agenda, but if opportunities ever arise I think it would be nice if they made it clear to students that we talk about these issues in…classrooms and the student center, (but) that you can…get involved and make some sort of difference,” Sam concluded. His words serve as a reminder that, despite the fact that as high school students the majority of us are unable to contribute to political elections through voting, we are still able to make tangible and meaningful change.