Heart of Harker: What It Means To Be Conservative


In this repeating guest column, we encourage all student writers from around the community to share their memorable experiences while at the Upper School.

by Raymond Banke, Guest Writer

Imagine a tightrope, high above the ground. On one end, a donkey is biting the rope, occasionally yanking it an inch back. Across from the donkey rests an elephant, its trunk wrapped furiously around the line between death and safety. Treading this narrow rope is a creature unknown to many: the porcupine.

To espouse conservative ideologies at Harker is one of the trickier social tasks at our school.  Conservatism is too often associated with only its most well known facet: Republicanism, the political belief system that is supposedly filled with racists, bigots and other so-called “deplorables.”  

Classmates who harbor good intentions and believe in freedom of speech seem to eschew them both when they hear the word “conservative,” immediately imagining someone who hates gays, is staunchly Christian and probably wants to “Make America Great Again.”  

There is a large degree of inflexibility that I encounter as a conservative at Harker as to what beliefs I can and cannot have due to the fear of falsely being seen as a bigot. As a result, whenever someone asks me about my political ideology, I just say libertarian, as the nametag holds a less negative stigma, and the group’s values align relatively closely to my own political views.

For example, I hold numerous doubts about the effectiveness of institutionalized medicine, mainly because of its inefficiency, high price tag due to monopolization, and detrimental effects on healthcare personalization. These complaints are also shared by many libertarians, who dislike government involvement in our health system.

However, I also believe that a public healthcare system could work if it was simplified, used tax dollars more efficiently, or even was mostly privatized through a consumer-driven network, a method the Swiss government has been using to great success to this day. These latter thoughts are why I don’t entirely identify with the libertarian community.

Furthermore, the result of associating with the libertarians is that people think I don’t care for the disadvantaged and am crazily obsessed with Ayn Rand. Yes, I may have written about 2.5 English essays in the lens of objectivist theory, but do you really think I want to remove Social Security?

We happen to live in a liberal oasis at Harker, and I accept and embrace that environment that I chose for high school. However, to harbor a truly diverse student body, we should not discourage those who believe in right-wing politics. Instead, we should foster those conversations with conservatives in order to better understand where their views are coming from.

The gun control discussion held earlier in March that invited speakers to express conservative viewpoints was a good example of how we can at least begin this conversation on campus. This sort of informal discourse not only helps to strengthen your own political beliefs but also creates an environment for more sincere dialogue between our school’s right and left.

For now, though, I continue to carefully walk the political tightrope.

Raymond Banke is a junior at The Harker School. When he isn’t procrastinating debate prep or his English essays, Raymond enjoys creating art and reading Humans of Harker.

This piece was originally published in the pages of the Winged Post on March 29, 2018.