Unpopular opinions spark heated student debate

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Unpopular opinions spark heated student debate

Hamadi Belgachi

Hamadi Belgachi

Hamadi Belgachi

Hannah Masling

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One of them is a Trump supporter. The other? An anarcho-communist. Though these aspects of their identity are quite disfavored at Wilson, neither Alex DeSouza nor Walker Price lets the unpopularity of their opinions prevent them from voicing their beliefs.

“The first time in each class it’s really funny, because you see people look at me differently. They’re like, ‘Oh my god, no way, he’s a Republican,’” DeSouza, a junior, said. But even stronger than the adverse reaction to DeSouza’s Republicanism is the reaction to “the T-word”—Trump. “That’s what brings them over the edge,” DeSouza said. He hypothesized that the reason his support of Donald Trump garners more criticism than his general support of the Republican party is because people associate Trump with a completely different set of values than widely accepted Republicans like former president Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Outside of the Wilson halls, Walker Price, also a junior, expresses his support of anarcho-communism on social media. “What happens a lot is that people see what I post on social media, and then they’re like, ‘Walker, why do you hate capitalism? Why do you hate America?’” 

Even when there’s not a phone screen to act as a barrier, Price’s classmates tend to not take his anarcho-communist views seriously. “I one time asked someone for one chip and they were like, ‘First say that communism is bad.’” But Price has gotten used to the disapproval and has learned to not let it phase him: “I’m like, okay, cool. You’re brainwashed.” 

“One downside of being so outspoken about my views is that a lot of people who disagree with them find it annoying and will be like, ‘I don’t want to be around you anymore,’” Price added. But luckily, he has some friends who also identify as leftists, which makes being vocal about his political opinions feel far less alienating.

In situations where DeSouza and Price vocalize their unpopular opinions, there often involves heated debate. Social Studies teacher Amanda Chang has seen many such contentious discussions. “[My role in classroom debates is] letting students discuss these things on their own and only interjecting when things become personal attacks,” she said. Chang mentioned that common topics that merit such debate are economics, decolonization, race, and the church, but doubts students’ willingness to remain open-minded about such topics. “I have seen very few compromises ever come out of those heated conversations. I’ve seen students listen to each other, but whether or not they were able to really hear and internalize the other side, not so much,” she said. Nonetheless, Chang applauds her fiercely opinionated students for wanting to change the world. 

Like Price, DeSouza hasn’t let the negative reactions to his opinions bring him down. “I think it makes me more open-minded,” he said. DeSouza cited a time when he transitioned from supporting to opposing the death penalty after hearing about the subject so much from Wilson students and then researching it at home. Although he changed his mind on the death penalty, DeSouza fundamentally disagrees with the majority of Wilson students’ political values. He rejects the culture of challenging the status quo, which he finds to be quite prevalent among Wilson students. “I think that people in DC just want to rip out all tradition,” he said.

DeSouza’s engagement in political discussions has certainly not always been smooth sailing. On two occasions, he has made individuals with whom he was talking to cry. The first instance revolved around the issue of abortion, and the second topic of conversation was the border wall. “I knew what I said, and I think before I talk. I knew what I said wasn’t hateful in any shape or form,” he reflected. Chang has witnessed similar discussions, where two students so adamantly oppose each other’s viewpoints. In one class, she had to separate two students who constantly argued, for the conversations became distracting and aggressive. But even when she seated them on opposite sides of the classroom, they still managed to yell at each other across the rows of desks.

If DeSouza and Price have anything in common, it’s that they’re both excited and willing to talk about their beliefs and the reasoning behind them. Avoid hostility, and they’d be eager to talk all things politics, from feminism to capitalism and from police presence to immigration.