Friday, May 5, 2017

How I Became A Conservative Unicorn: I Went To Public School

Whenever someone is curious enough to ask me what my political leanings are, I usually let them know that politically I'm a conservative unicorn: a person who doesn't fit the stereotypical "face" of a conservative. If you didn't receive the memo, a conservative is usually a close-minded traditionalist, white, cis-gendered male, whose life is privileged regardless of his social or economic status. Although I don't care for the "close-minded" or "white privilege" sentiment, there is a vein of truth in this stereotype. According to the Pew Research Center study on deep divides between United States political parties, there are "sharp differences between race, gender, generation, and education." Demographic groups that tilt Democratic are blacks, Hispanics, Jews, Asians, post-graduate women, the religiously unaffiliated, and those born into the millennial generation (those ages 18-33). Now I'm not going to argue that the statistics or that the stereotype is wrong, however I'm a college educated, Hispanic, millennial woman, but I've been leaning politically conservative since grade school. To many I shouldn't exist. How does a young Hispanic girl from Chicago, a city enveloped by liberal policies and values, become a conservative unicorn? It's simple; I went to public school.

Before I elaborate on the environmental influence leading to my political choice, on a previous blog post I mentioned how inherent personality can explain why people engage in certain types of political behavior. To do this I examined prominent feminists what types of choices they make politically and how these choices may reflect there inherent personality. As for myself, using the same (Big Five) framework to describe my personality, it does reflect the personality of someone who would be typically conservative. Although I'm open to all types of information, I'm conscientious and value order,  hard work, and perseverance. Frankly, I don't believe people are born "blank slates." We are all born with personalities that can be shaped by outside factors. As for myself one of the major factors that influenced the way I think about politics was my journey through the government bureaucracy called the Chicago Cook County public school system.

After living in Puerto Rico for almost two years, my parents decided to move back to the United States, and I was sent to (a predominately African-American) public school. As I started school in the second grade it became apparent what the school's motto should've been, "ask not what your school can do for you, but what you can do for your school." If a student was to succeed, the school would succeed, no matter if the school was responsible for the student's success or not. However if a student failed or disrupted the classroom the whole class would be punished. Collective justice, the idea that we are our brother's (and sister's) keeper, is one of the most fundamental moral lessons taught to most while attending public school. My school was just one of many that decided to take it upon themselves to promote values founded upon the philosophy that it takes a village to raise a child and no child should be treated unfairly. Newly instated fair school programs such as free student breakfast and lunch, because children who are impoverished should be feed for free, even though in most situations their parents are being paid by the government to feed them. Other changes included the dismantling of the school uniforms, because some parents felt they were not affordable or wanted their children to wear some outfit they bought them. As for academic changes, the school to created a specialized class for gifted students. It lasted less than a week due to complaints from some parents due to their child not being one of the few students privileged enough to join the class.
Although these incidents annoyed me, at the time I was quite indifferent, and throughout my early school life I never questioned the intentions of the school authorities. If they said they were working for the good of the students then, no matter how idiotic they seemed, their solutions had to be worth it. It wasn't until the fourth grade when I picked up a book and read the simple line, "all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." George Orwell's Animal Farm was my gateway into questioning the true intentions of authority when compared to the results. The system I was placed in began to dissolve and reveal in it's place the consequence of a revolution in political thought within public education, in which every teacher was a believer in the soft bigotry of low expectations. Since these expectations were low investment, usually tossing money at the perpetual problem, ought to be done.

In the 2017 school year, the Cook County school district invests an average of $12,075 per student, and administration along with teachers still want more. Why? Teachers and faculty cry out that every student, no matter their race or gender deserves not only an education, but a quality education. All student outcomes must not merely be equal, but equal and of the same quality. In my opinion the quality is poor but if you disagree with this opinion, it is a fact the quality is poor. According to the Chicago Sun Times, the Illinois State Board of Education tests in reading and mathematics lead to the result to "one in four CPS students in grades three through eight and high school performed at a level necessary for post-secondary education." When taking into consideration the race of most of these students in these Chicago Public Schools, it becomes inevitable that someone will use this as a means for political and social outrage, along with a steady flow of income.

But is this true progress if the result leaves many students lacking in independence, confidence, along with social and educational skills? By questioning the results of the bureaucratic nature public education system along with the authority that surrounded me, I was able to forgo the collectivist principle of equality within the public commune, and in it's place a more conservative and individualistic framework spurred by my personality began to take shape, and to take this step and seek diversity of political and philosophical thinking as a young girl of Puerto Rican heritage within a public school environment, is what I call progress.