by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
With schools reopening for in-person instruction in a few weeks, many people are understandably fixated on the dangers COVID-19 poses to students’ safety and well-being. While the pandemic remains a real concern, another very worrisome issue will face our nation’s high-school students when they return to the classroom: whether conservative students will be treated fairly if their views and ideas do not comport with the overall zeitgeist of particular schools.
Healthy debate, based on a real diversity of ideas, rests at the very foundation of civil society and our educational system. But this core value is under threat today, with many Americans self-censoring and silencing themselves due to the rampant cancel-culture epidemic and other forms of discrimination based on ideology.
It is already well known that conservative faculty members regularly hide their views for fear of retaliation from students and administrators. Students are choosing to keep quiet on campus and in their classrooms, fearing not only retaliation from peers but also long-term reputational consequences for internships, careers, and social standing. Viewpoint diversity and real liberal education is under threat due to worries about woke mobs coming after dissenters and the rise of “equity” and “inclusion” offices instructing students what and how to think. These forces have expanded from higher education to high schools, where numerous stories have emerged chronicling the fear and intimidation students experience …
… The question of differential treatment on the basis of ideology has not been well-documented, but new data reveal how much more discrimination conservative high-school students face than their liberal peers do. …
… By contrast, 21 percent of students say conservative students face uncivil treatment often, and another 40 percent say conservative students have to confront this negative reality sometimes. This means that a majority of conservative students (61 percent) face discriminatory treatment based on their ideology on a regular basis.