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Corey Stern Headshot

'Sit Down and Shut Up'

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When I walked out of my American History class a few weeks ago, I could not have been prouder of myself. We had just finished a discussion on the importance of labor unions in society. As we covered everything from Governor Scott Walker's controversial union bill to the school district's teachers association and tenure, I managed to compose myself and hold back all of my strong thoughts on the topic. This is something quite unusual for me, as I am rarely reluctant to express my strong conservative views.

I knew I had already previously gotten myself into trouble in that class with a controversial political comment. However, at this particular time, by holding myself back, I thought I had escaped my political battle of the day. But of course, this was not the case. I was approached later in the afternoon by another teacher of mine. She had just read an opinion piece I published in my school's newspaper, Spectrum, in which I expressed my disapproval of the Occupy Wall Street movement. She was curious to know how I could comment on the protests without actually witnessing them in person. She asked if I had actually taken the time to go down to Zucotti Park. "No!" I hastily responded, "It seems way too scary to be around those people." I followed up by asking, "Why, where you there?" knowing for sure that she would say no. But, it was just my luck that this very teacher had enjoyed taking part in the protests and therefore was a part of the particular group of people I had not-so-kind words for.

The Occupy Wall Street movement is a perfect example of how hot political topics can frequently be brought up in school, and sometimes cause issues, especially for stubborn-minded students like me. In the past month, my teachers in my physical education, statistics, Spanish, English, American history, and calculus classes have all gotten involved in class discussions on the protestors in Zucotti Park.

I have been fortunate enough to be blessed with having some truly incredible teachers, especially this year. Yet, I find it simply amusing as I look back on the many political disagreements I have gotten into at school, especially because so many of my teachers seem to be, at the very least, liberal leaning. (Nothing surprising in a public New York high school.)

I am the type of student that always likes to show their best side in school, because my grade-obsessed self is just terrified of upsetting a teacher. In the end, they have the upper hand with the power of grades. Strangely, the only exception I do make to this is with politics. For some reason, with me, there are no rules when it comes to my conservative views. It would be generous to say that some of the things I have done in the past were just a little more than provocative. In eighth grade, during the final days of the 2008 election, I proudly dressed up in school as Sarah Palin on Halloween as I made sure to tell everyone what I really thought about then-Senator Barack Obama. In another year, I displayed my favorite Ronald Reagan shirt for all my classmates to see during a discussion on the necessity of certain socialist programs. And finally, I topped it all off this Halloween, as I roamed around school dressed as an Occupy Main Street Protestor, with a sign that boldly stated "I <3 TARP! #OccupyMainStreet!"

I really need to learn to my control my political views, because I simply will never win. And even sometimes when I am somehow able to control myself, I find that someone else has began the incendiary political discussion. Going as far back as the Bush-Gore election in 2000, when I was in kindergarten, it seems as if all my teachers have been happy to lecture on their liberal views. I guess the classroom really isn't an open forum for discussion. When it comes to politics, I think I need to just follow a policy of "Sit down and shut up." No matter how much Obamacare is praised, no matter how much the 2012 GOP contenders or Fox News is bashed, I really need to keep my mouth shut and go along with it. I always thought I would be able to carry through with my views, but now I know that there is no hope. How can I possibly continue to express my conservative political views in school while my teachers seem to just be getting more and more liberal over time? I can't, which is why I have given up. I guess I will just have to wait two more years until I go college, because university campuses are known for being oh so conservative.