The Mood of the Community
It’s a well known bit of wisdom that one shouldn’t discuss religion or politics with friends and family, and Durham Academy is certainly no exception.
While many students are willing to engage in political discussions, they aren’t always a picture of civility. Alice Dempsey described the typical conversations at DA as “pretty heated and pointed,” and Niall Schroder summed up the tone as “aggressive.” And though these discussions don’t always go well, both Dempsey and Schroder were nonetheless willing to participate.
However, some students feel driven away from discussing politics altogether. Another senior, Kelly Cunneen, said that she is willing to discuss politics only if “I feel like I have something to add. But if I feel like it’s just going to turn into a screaming match, then I don’t.”
Despite this, no one interviewed believed this hostile climate was a recent development or had anything to do with the heightened rhetoric on both sides. “It’s gotten more intense. We’ve started talking about it more just because the election is upcoming,” Cunneen said. “I don’t think it’s been a change. I don’t think it’s gone from nice to bad, it’s just happening more.”
Perhaps more worrying is the students’ concern over making their political views public. Cunneen said she was willing to disclose her views “to certain classmates, yes. To others, no. Sometimes if I tell people what I think, I feel like they judge me, so if I feel like I’m going to be judged, then I don’t.” When asked the same question, Dempsey said that “I do feel like I’m going to be attacked for some things,” which affects her willingness to be open.
Students disagreed on the proximate cause of this. Dempsey said that it had always been this way, while Cunneen claimed that it has become worse recently. “After Trump got the nomination, it became if you identify as conservative or with him, you’re an awful person,” she said. A half-joking comment made by one of the students interviewed for this article sums up the current issues with the political climate right now: “I don’t want my voice recorded ’cause the climate here is so negative.”
Of course, not everything is doom and gloom at DA. The Durham Academy Discussions club provides a venue for discussions of issues of all sorts, and Donald Trump’s candidacy has brought some liberals and conservatives onto common ground, with Sarah Booker saying that the election “has certainly united many people against Trump because so many people don’t like him.”
And perhaps because of this, the Young Republicans club has recently picked up a liberal member, hopefully a sign of local bipartisanship and healthier discussions between liberals and conservatives in the future.