How Polarization Kills Diversity

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The idea of diversity encompasses various realms of life: race, religion, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, etc. When it comes down to it, diversity in all of these areas should serve toward accomplishing the most important form of all: diversity of thought. Despite extravagant and deliberate efforts to promote the former types of diversity, the latter is sadly lacking, especially in the classroom.

In recent years, normally mundane aspects of life have become increasingly– and destructively– politicized. To make matters worse, the current education system encourages citizens– as young as adolescents– to view distinctions of Republican or Democrat as black-and-white indications of personal character. If someone thinks like you, they’re good. If not, they’re bad– and shouldn’t be listened to.

I am a recent graduate of a private independent high school in Los Angeles, one which particularly prides itself on defying the common stereotypes of high school by promoting self-discovery, personal expression, and individual development. A hallmark of their philosophy is diversity, encouraging students of varying backgrounds and socioeconomic statuses to not only unite for school, but also genuinely engage in conversations and interactions that honor each teen’s experiences and further create an understanding between them. Though I greatly enjoyed my overall experience, I found this promise to be sadly lacking in its key aspect: diversity of thought.

Given its location in Los Angeles, my school is predominantly liberal. Coming from a relatively conservative family, I often found my personal beliefs and opinions to be contrary to those of the majority of the school population. For most of my time there, I found it easier to simply hold my tongue and refrain from voicing my opinions than challenge the otherwise undisputed views of my classmates. During my time at this school, I never heard any of my classmates speak to a pro-life perspective in discussions surrounding abortion, nor a pro-Trump argument when it came to the 2020 election.

For all the organized discussions that featured open dialogue and honest conversation, I never felt truly comfortable defying the status quo, fearing it would negatively change my classmates’ opinions of me and harm the relationships I’d worked so hard to cultivate. At the end of the day, I worried that a difference of opinion would erase the consistent actions that had proven my good character. To my disappointment, I realized that this type of behavior led to an environment that was really more of an echo chamber– the antithesis of true diversity.

My school is just one example, but I believe it’s representative of what I’ve seen in larger society as well. From corporate businesses to media to the education system, diversity is venerated as the value of utmost importance in modern society. Ultimately, the idea of diversity will remain just that– a falsely worshiped idea– unless people can learn to welcome differences of opinion, instead of using them to condemn others. In fact, differences make a community stronger– a fact we should all celebrate.