Parker’s Faux Liberalism

Why we need to start committing to long term change

Parkers Faux Liberalism

Photo credit: Brooke Marsico

From the outside, Parker seems like a liberal environment. When it comes to national culture war talking points, we come out on the right side. We read texts about slavery and learn about the struggles for women’s suffrage and the history of LGBTQIA oppression. And students certainly consider themselves as liberal. Conservative students in particular believe that Parker is liberal, suffocatingly so. But I don’t see a truly liberal environment; I see a white elite warping of liberalism. In order to create a student body that defies that mold of the white liberal elite, the school must show its commitment to real change.

 Now, I fall a little to the left of most Parker students, one of whom once called me a little to the left of Lenin. That certainly isn’t true, but my politics do tend more towards Bernie than Bloomberg. But my problem doesn’t come from the lack of social democrats roaming the halls. No, it comes from the lack of commitment to follow through on the ideology students tend to espouse. 

Parker students take up issues when they become popular but quickly abandon them when they fall out of vogue. Liberal chic, I call this. When something major happens in our world or country, Parker students take to social media or talk a good game about wanting to change things but inevitably, they’ll move on and the status quo returns. Slurs and pc versions of slurs return to the halls. Nobody does anything about it. All the purported commitment to change flies out the window as soon as the issue falls out of fashion. And you don’t need to look far to find examples of this behavior, but perhaps the most obvious example of this is after the BLM protests in 2020. Soon after Parker students posted to show their support for the movement, they quickly returned to their ways, and no long term commitment to change materialized within the school

Parker returns to being an inhospitable place for many, and the rest stop caring. 

But how is this different from liberals generally? Well it isn’t. Parker students are simply echoing the world around them, losing interest in changing the status quo as soon as their social media feeds’ stop being covered in reminders about the oppression of whichever group is being targeted at that moment. 

So what should be done? Frankly, it’s hard to convince students for whom the status quo works to change it. Especially because people often react badly to overt forms of trying to change things. I’ll be the first to admit that I find forced change, especially to things I think aren’t really affecting anything like vocabulary changes, off putting and can make me less interested in changing my behavior. 

But there has to be a way to make things better. There has to be a way to create sustained commitment to change, but it won’t come from the students. Each generation becomes temporary bastions of change, but at some point we get over it, so it’s up to the generations older than us to take parts of that idealism that we abandon every time some new and shiny thing comes along. 

Parents, teachers, administrators need to be the ones to hold the baton. While our curriculum reflects a lot of modern liberal ideas of what education should be, inside Parker, a long term commitment to changing things for the better doesn’t appear to be present. 

And many of the loudest and most outspoken voices are leaving. 

We move on from one issue to the next constantly, and without many of the teachers and administrators who are most vocal, most of whom are women of color. We are losing crucial reminders about the experiences of these teachers within the school and students are losing their ability to see themselves in their teachers or to have a window into a different experience. 

 We need to commit to actual, institutional and cultural change, not just how we speak. Change cannot be through half-hearted attempts at conversations about race, gender, etc. Nor can we give up on hard conversations once the topic in question falls out of vogue. And we can’t keep sweeping problems under the rug. We must confront the issue so it doesn’t fester leading to an increasingly noxious environment. The only way to do that, however, is for older generations to model open conversation about hard issues and to be consistently committed to lasting hard change inside and outside of Parker.