Knox is definitely a bit of a liberal bubble, a reality that has both positive and negative consequences. On the one hand, I can say that I personally and I’m sure many others, have realized the ways in which my education and upbringing failed to teach me about institutionalized forms of oppression that I benefit from as a person of privilege. I continue to learn this and the student body and classes at Knox have pushed me to question and reconsider my own upbringing and understandings of justice.
At the same time, our campus doesn’t feel like a reflection of the real world. We are confronted by conservative ideals so infrequently here. I often feel like I do not know how to engage with conservative family members or people I meet at or outside of Knox that don’t agree with me — or the majority of our campus — politically. It seems like the divide between liberals and conservatives is just getting bigger and people on all sides may not have the tools to navigate that.
I think that professors should keep this in mind when they approach their curriculum, and I’m sure many do. When considering readings or lectures for classes, be sure to bring up counterarguments and why those exist. In some cases, counterarguments may just be invalid, so at least pulling from the work of a wide variety of scholars that have tension in their points of views may help to inform students of all perspectives rather than those they are most used to.
I don’t know that Knox needs to hire based on political opinion, but ensuring that students are well-equipped to consider all sides of an issue, even if they fundamentally disagree with it, will better prepare them to graduate and have these discussions beyond the limits of our campus.
Before coming to Knox, I knew little about unpacking my privileged identities and practicing self-accountability. Now a soon-to-be graduate, I consider these skills to be some of the most valuable learning tools I’ll carry from my Knox experience. The college’s liberal curriculum has undoubtedly molded me into the thinker, activist and journalist I am today.
As someone who transferred to Knox from a large and far less left-leaning university, I’m doubtful I would have acquired these skills if I’d stayed at my previous institution.
But with that said, I worry about my ability to effectively communicate with members of the outside world whose political views deviate from my firmly developed liberal mindset. As much as I hope to work toward social change in all facets of my post-grad life, this can’t be done without the ability to listen to those whom with you disagree. Like anything else, patience is a skill that must be practiced.
My participation in Knox’s Social Justice Dialogues has helped with being able to talk through difference, but these classes still tend to attract fairly liberal participants. While I know calling attention to conservative viewpoints in any given class usually evokes frustration for myself and a handful of others, I think experiencing that frustration is both productive and beneficial to the learning process.
I don’t think the College should seek out faculty solely for their political views, but current professors should consider dialoguing with their classes about the other side. For many, myself included, feelings of anger and frustration often stand as catalysts for active change.
At Knox, most of my professors have been liberal, with an exception or two. I hear the word “echo chamber” thrown around a lot, and while I believe there are serious repercussions to only hearing opinions that are similar to yours, I also believe that the liberal and Democratic party is more open to discussions regarding diversity than the conservative party might be.
These discussions of diversity are key parts of my college experience, and the experiences of so many others. Having the chance to learn from people who are nothing like you is an incredibly worthwhile experience, and can help students have discussions about culture, identity, race and different experiences in a healthy and helpful way. Yet, I also think that this kind of discussion can be expanded to different political parties.
Admittedly, I don’t know of many conservatives at Knox, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not here. The members of the conservative party deserve the chance to hear from professors whose beliefs align with theirs, and non-members deserve the chance to be challenged by a different viewpoint. Constantly agreeing with professors can sometimes lead to complacency, and I believe that by challenging viewpoints, professors can help students understand people who are not like them better, and help them have meaningful conversations and discussions. It’s similar to the nature of a social justice dialogue, although inherently different in a number of ways.
Here is where I give a shout out to Sue Hulett: For all Sue and I disagree, it is important as an international relations major for me to interact with conservatives who are game to debate with me. My department, political science, is something of anomaly at Knox, with a higher percentage of conservative faculty and an obvious emphasis on evaluating views across the political spectrum.
The liberal bubble of Knox has rarely bothered me, serving as something of a respite from my rural, conservative-leaning hometown. Conversations with friends are easier here, without the need to edge around political and social topics because I operate under the assumption that we will agree. However, I believe that the kind of dialogue generated after the results of the election was enlightening, and concerning. Classmates of mine from liberal backgrounds condemned people from the rural Midwest as backward and blindly wrong. I remember my frustration sitting there, feeling insulted and knowing that a scolding from a white kid from Portland would not improve the situation.
I have no desire to infringe on my professors’ freedoms to teach how they like. But I think there is merit in preparing students to engage with people who do not share their views. Not only should we be able to argue our points of view in academic papers, but we should be able to bring this knowledge into practical use.
I grew up in a similar bubble to Knox, a small community that tends to lean in one political direction over the other. Interestingly enough, that direction usually seems to be right-winged. Coming to Knox, I was initially so excited (and truly still am) that I found an environment that caters to my liberal points-of-view. That feeling of “everyone here is like me,” however, can be a problem and it also just is not true.
Without having conversations that threaten my beliefs, what am I truly gaining? Many of my professors at Knox have been openly liberal, one even holding a meeting in which students could come and cry on Nov. 9. Of course, I’ve had professors play devil’s advocate, which can help with class discussion, but there is always the underlying knowledge that the professor is putting on an act.
I realize that the majority of our campus is liberal, I don’t think there is much doubt there, but that does not mean that there are not conservative voices. I can’t speak for any of them, but I can imagine that it must be unnerving to be in an academic environment whose ideals don’t align with their personal ones.
While, I believe Knox should hire any professor who excels in their field, I don’t think that the college should make decisions based on political views or compatibility with the student body. Professors are not here to relate with us, they are here to teach. Furthermore, a professor’s job is to expand our boundaries and challenge the way we think. Knox’s faculty is diverse, intelligent and hard-working, which is everything a faculty should be. Political views shouldn’t even be a factor.
Within my first two terms at Knox, my worldview was changed. I went to a school from kindergarten through eighth grade named after Martin Luther King Jr., and only learned what racism really was in college. This is one of many examples I could give illustrating moments where I have discovered the many privileges I hold as a white woman, and I learn more about the effect of this privilege and the ways I still hold onto it every day.
Knox prides itself on celebrating diversity of background and perspective. But I didn’t see inclusivity at the Anti-Trump rally in November; I saw a small group of conservative students standing on the edge, watching their liberal classmates speak about their pain. I’m glad these students showed up, but if this is an academic space in which we can engage and challenge each other, why aren’t conservative students and liberal students speaking? I want to learn why we disagree with each other so that I can prepare myself for life after Knox in a stratified political climate.
I think it is Knox’s responsibility as a school to prepare its students for the world they will enter, and if Knox claims to produce well-rounded students, the curriculum should represent that, and the professors should make room for these alternate viewpoints in class. And as a student, I need to work harder to start these conversations and be open to hearing unfamiliar