Opinion: For Balance, Altamont Needs a Conservative Speaker, Too

Frasier Horton

Frasier Horton

Saturday, January 20, 2024
Opinion: For Balance, Altamont Needs a Conservative Speaker, Too

Doug Jones at Altamont in October, 2023. Photo by Sean Flynt.

When I first started looking for definitions of the word woke for this piece, I was quite surprised when I found two different definitions acknowledging the liberal and the conservative perspectives on the word. From Merriam-Webster.com: 

Woke (chiefly US slang): aware of and actively attentive to important societal facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice).


Woke (disapproving): politically liberal or progressive (as in matters of racial and social justice) especially in a way that is considered unreasonable or extreme. 

The very fact that the Merriam-Webster dictionary has to have two entirely different definitions of this one word tells you a lot about the state of the world we’re living in right now. 

Now let's back up a bit. It’s completely understandable for some people to think that the change happening in their world is too much, or too little, but it is irresponsible to discredit someone just because of their politics. The way we want our world to be shaped is based on the way our own lives have gone and on the beliefs of those who have shaped us. Assuming one party is always and will always be wrong is an oversimplification; associating political parties with either truth and goodness or lies and evil shuts down the ability to acknowledge other sides of an argument.  

Consider this: When you think of the Republican Party, is former President Donald Trump one of the first people to pop into your head? Do you think of Fox News? Does an image of Marjorie Taylor Green or George Santos or Roy Moore emerge in your mind? I don’t think it’s too controversial to say that the perception of the Republican Party has changed dramatically, especially when it comes to Trump. I can remember that 2016-2020 run where I was checking the news daily to see the latest thing he had done, but I let the way I felt about him specifically be the only reason I didn’t like Republicans. I even went as far to call myself a Democrat because of that. As a kid you think like a kid, but how many kids is that happening to right now? Obviously as you grow up, you’re going to be able to think with a little more maturity and be able to organize these thoughts, but the way that information is spreading now, it’s easier to become more rooted in unfair generalizations. 

I think we saw that in action when our school hosted former Senator Doug Jones and a question came up about Trump. When asked what he thought about the former president, Jones said, “I think he’s the single most dangerous threat to American democracy right now,” to which the vast majority of Altamont students gave their applause. Having a US senator come to our school is an honor in itself, and his actually taking the time to answer our questions is an experience a lot of kids don’t get to have anywhere. He came and he represented his views and his party as best he could, but his presence actually means we should have a thoughtful Republican or at least relatively conservative speaker as well. If our school is perceived as liberal -- and the faculty and student body here tend to be liberal, at least by Alabama standards -- then bringing in a Democratic senator only supports that perception. Another speaker wouldn't have to be a former US senator, just someone given the same opportunity to present things from another perspective. 

Politics are the way that citizens of our nation express their feelings about our nation’s decisions. The right to vote is one of the most powerful rights a US citizen can hold, and it’s important to educate our youth as they grow up in our evolving world. Altamont has the chance to do something incredible for our students and even our faculty. With early exposure to different perspectives on how our government should be run, we can not only increase our knowledge, but also learn how to consider ways of thinking and ways of life different from our own.   

To share your thoughts on this or anything else you've see in The Acta Diurna, to suggest story ideas, or to become a contributor, email TheActaDiurna@altamontschool.org.