In the dictionary, politics is defined as “activities associated with the governance of a country or other area, especially the debate or conflict among individuals or parties having or hoping to achieve power.”
However, the connotation of “politics” is expanding into more than just the bi-partisian system.
The modern form of “politics” has turned into a pseudo-umbrella term for public policy, social activism, as well as the Republican and Democratic parties. One’s “politics” now relates to one’s views on women’s rights, public policy surrounding gender and sexuality, or climate-related legislation, to name a few.
“I don’t feel very open about sharing my personal political views just because it’s such a taboo. Majority of my classmates have similar views I think but I still don’t want to upset the wrong people,” Kowalik said.
Ally Kowalik, a senior at Springfield Township High School, retrains herself from always being open about her beliefs in her co-ed environment.
“I text and talk mainly with friends about politics. However, I don’t have much discussion in school about politics except at politics-based clubs,” she said.
In regard to her opinions about women’s rights, Kowalik feels particularly vulnerable sharing her thoughts with her male peers.
“I simply feel a little unsafe sharing my views because I feel like there are more members of the opposite sex who disagree with me and could get upset with me,” Kowalik said.
Similar to Kowalik, Alyssa Neduscin, a senior at Penn Charter, feels that there are:
“I text and talk mainly with friends. However there’s not much discussion in school about politics due to the lack of clubs during the coronavirus pandemic.”
Lately, Neducsin has lacked a consistent outlet in which to express her political beliefs. In part, there are fewer “safe spaces,” such as political-based clubs, because of online school and the lack of in-person gatherings with her peers.
However, Kowalik believes that when it comes to politics, there should be more areas to feel safe about expressing your beliefs; sharing your opinion shouldn’t be constricted to just clubs or organizations.
“We need to start encouraging the conversation, not just allowing it,” she said.
In order to foster a more supportive, open community in schools, Kowalik suggests practicing more open communication between students and teachers about politics.
“I think that teachers shouldn’t be afraid to share their politics. I feel like some students wouldn’t like or try to learn as much if their teacher had differing political beliefs and that’s kind of an issue- we need to be more tolerant,” Kowalik said.
Without attempting to create an environment that is more accepting of diverse opinions and beliefs, high schools in the greater Philadelphia area- and the country as a whole- will continue to suppress the voices of students, particularly those who identify as female.
It is crucial that educators, administrators, and students start learning how to be more open-minded. Especially given the hard political divisions in our country, we must demonstrate more tolerance about other peoples’ politics.