by Owen Rickert
During my last year in high school, all seniors were required to write a speech about the topic of their choice and present this speech to the student body and faculty. My essay, titled “Division,” dealt with how identity politics ruined the last few years at the high school that I attended. It was summarized well here.
In the weeks following the presentation of my speech, I remember being asked what led me to choose the topic, a topic of which could very likely lead to ridicule and even hostility from those listening. What defining moments compelled me to challenge the way in which I was being taught? Also, did I receive any backlash from my essay?
I had been raised in a conservative household, with a father who was especially staunch in his conservative beliefs. It was often pointed out, while watching the news, and reading articles, the obvious slant towards the Left. Because of this, it was easy to recognize when topics were being presented in school that were favorable towards the beliefs of the Left. A few examples stood out clearly.
During my sophomore year of high school, a mandatory lesson for the entire school was scheduled regarding the concept of being an ally towards those who were labeled as being marginalized. All homeroom teachers were required to discuss the idea that “privileged” people need to stand up for the minority students and ensure their safety and well-being. Minority students included anyone that was not white, straight, and Christian. The absurdity is how, within an instant, we were all separated into groups that we had not recognized prior to this. Some were labeled as victims while others had a superior position just by being born. From then on, relationships changed. It was so insulting to suggest that one group of people should feel guilty for their “privilege” and the other group forced to have the mindset that they need help from the privileged.
That was not the only time that the privilege concept was forced upon us. Picture being called to an obligatory assembly. You did not know the subject matter prior to attending. As you sit down in your seat, you notice there is a panel of guests sitting on the stage. The lights go down and the topic of the assembly is introduced. The theme is now specifically “white privilege.” Over the next 45 minutes, my white classmates and I learned that what we had accomplished throughout our short lives was tainted because of the “fortunate” color of our skin. According to the speakers, we were hurting those around us without even knowing it. It was now our responsibility to rectify that. Never had I viewed people in this way. That the color of our skin really separated us this much. The administrators knew that they had a captive audience and used that opportunity to their advantage. They presented this topic as fact. I am glad that before this assembly, I never considered that I was greater than anyone due to the color of my skin. It sickened me that anyone would believe that the color of my skin puts me on a greater level than others.
As mentioned in the speech, on the first day of senior year, each student in every class was required to introduce themselves with their name and their preferred gender pronouns. An issue was created over a problem that never existed. It would have been frowned upon for not taking part in this charade. Again, the administration knew that they had power over us, and they foisted their agenda with the knowledge that there would be no repercussions.
These specific events, along with many others, tipped me over the edge. I understood that nobody, parents nor students, no matter how furious they were, was going to do anything to challenge the indoctrination. I was granted the perfect opportunity through the senior speech project, and I utilized it.
After presenting my speech to the school and faculty, there was some minor blowback, which was expected. Immediately following the speech, a student walked up to me and said, “F… you,” along with other vulgar language. At the time, those around me and I laughed it off. It never occurred to me to report this to an administrator, as some students suggested. If that was her opinion on my speech, so be it. No harm done, and I’m not easily offended. Yet, I was very aware that the response most likely would have been very different if I had retorted so crudely to a speech written by her that didn’t fit what I believed. My head spins with the thought of how quickly I would have been taken to the woodshed for tampering with her delicate sensibilities.
In my class following the speech, it was good to hear that I had done well from one of my teachers. Even though it is unlikely that she agreed with anything that I said, the gesture went a long way. It was a reminder that as angry as I was about what was being forced upon me, overall, many of the teachers at the school treated us with respect and kept their politics to themselves.
Although I was well on my way to becoming a staunch conservative when I entered high school, the last few years of my education fiercely cemented those beliefs. I fear though, for those who do not recognize when they are being manipulated by the liberal agenda that many schools, public and private, are forcing on the students.
As I remember the fractures that were inevitable among the students, when the administration created different identity groups that largely did not exist before their insistence, a phrase comes to mind. “E Pluribus Unum” is a phrase that appears on the Great Seal of the United States. The meaning behind this phrase is that out of the thirteen colonies came about a single nation. The colonies dealt with their differences and shared a common identity: being American. The Founders were brilliant scholars who created an American identity that was unique to the world – with the basis of that identity being that of embracing the concept of liberty that was unknown anywhere else.
The current identity politics of the Left severs this common identity. Public and private schools are both using this tactic to turn people against each other, Americans against Americans, especially when one side is always choosing the group to be exalted, and likewise choosing those to be demeaned. It points fingers at one group, while telling another that the difficulties in their lives are not only beyond their control, but are the fault of others.
In 1785, in a letter to James Madison, George Washington stresses the importance of a united people when he states “We are either a United people, or we are not. If the former, let us, in all matters of general concern act as a nation, which have national objects to promote, and a national character to support. If we are not, let us no longer act a farce by pretending to it.” I fear that the identity politics that many students are being taught in schools could tear apart what our Founders established in making many, one.
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Owen Rickert, originally from Minnetonka, Minnesota, is a current freshmen at the University of Wisconsin – Madison