Editorial: Bridging the Gap: A Call to Action
Four years ago, in the November 11, 2016 issue of The Lawrence, the 136th Board penned an editorial titled “Bridging the Gap,” reflecting on the 2016 election.
Four years ago, in the November 11, 2016 issue of The Lawrence, the 136th Board penned an editorial titled “Bridging the Gap,” reflecting on the 2016 election. Following President Trump’s victory, Americans across the country, and more specifically, Lawrentians, failed to grapple with the unimaginable and unexpected outcome of this election. As a largely liberal school, students understandably entered a state of shock and denial, but the editorial underlined how our inability to cope with Trump’s triumph only highlighted our division from the rest of the U.S. This year, the editorial still rings true. While Biden ultimately won the election, many still wonder how Trump managed to secure over 70 million votes. Perhaps, our astonishment stems from a lack of awareness that our community’s political atmosphere does not necessarily reflect that of the U.S.
By living in a liberal “bubble,” we assume that the rest of the country shares our political values, such as an emphasis on social issues over economic policies. Nevertheless, this does not mean that all Lawrentians share homogenous viewpoints, especially given the breadth of politically-oriented clubs on campus and the diverse backgrounds our student body hails from. However, it is no surprise that many of us, at least among those who voiced their opinions, entered this election season hoping to elect a president who would better address social issues in our country. However, many outside of our community may not have shared similar sentiments. In a recent Gallup Poll, around 44 percent of citizens prioritized the economy as the number one issue of importance, even over race relations, immigration, and response to Covid-19. In fact, the poll indicated that only 39 percent and 29 percent of Americans considered race relations and immigration, respectively, to be “extremely important.”
Naturally, this begs the question: How do we increase awareness of these political differences? In order to approach the question of “how,” though, it is necessary to first address the “why”: Why do people hold the views that they do? While we may assume that Lawrenceville’s political climate is a microcosm of that of the U.S., this is a false presumption.
Undoubtedly, our student body makes an effort to engage in political discourse, as evidenced by the several events hosted during our Pace and Quality of Life Day: DivCo’s “Dessert and Dialogue,” The First Amendment’s post-election discussion, and “Cookies and Conversation” facilitated by Young Democrats and Young Republicans. While these discussions allow us to interact with other Lawrentians, they tend to affirm the beliefs that we currently hold or address topics that the majority of us give special importance to. Consequently, we are not prompted to discuss other issues of significance, which pertain to others in our nation.
Therefore, in order to delve into the “why” question, we must supplement community discourse with a sustained, thorough exploration into the opinions of those beyond our community. This goal can be achieved through a combination of the following: reframing our history classes to focus on the present-day significance of historical events and utilizing club-organized events as an opportunity to analyze political issues through a non Lawrenceville-centric lens.
Both U.S. history classes aim to provide students with a comprehensive overview of America’s history, but the current curriculum seemingly neglects the crucial relationship between our past and present. To address this important link, the spring trimester should be geared towards analyzing the present-day ramifications of significant events covered earlier in the year. Whether that be reading news articles for homework or engaging with current initiatives, such as the 1619 Project—which connects slavery’s ramifications on today’s America—it is imperative that students draw connections between America’s historical legacy and present-day issues.
Outside of the classroom, students may benefit from clubs providing both discussion and information-based opportunities. While clubs have facilitated political discourse in the past, they should also organize informational events, with special focus on topics such as comparing the political climate in different regions of the U.S and analyzing political opinion in swing states. By doing so, students will be able to understand why people in various parts of the U.S. hold the beliefs that they do, and what influences these views.
As the 136th Board wrote, “The fact of the matter is that simply expressing disgust and hatred towards unfamiliar opinions will not change the America we live in today.” While we are entitled to our views, simply expressing disgust towards discordant beliefs does not negate their existence and pervasiveness. Therefore, we must take active steps in and out of the classroom to address the “why” question, as this ultimately forms the basis of our nation’s political polarization.