Aquinas should teach how to think, not what to think

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Over the past few years, when walking into school at Aquinas, conservative students often feel we have a target on our backs because of our viewpoints. 

I and other Aquinas students started to notice the leftist ideology during our junior year. It was an election year and a summer of rioting. As a result, almost every student in the high school knew where other students stood, which caused heated debates in the classrooms. They were not healthy debates because the teachers with similar beliefs would get involved, take sides, and shut down anyone that had conservative beliefs. 

Aquinas has teachers speaking their political views even in classes where politics is not in the curriculum. When one teacher in an ELA class spewed hate about our former U.S. president, an administrator who was there shook his head in agreement. There is video footage of this. I know of less than five teachers that don’t bring up their beliefs in class. These five teachers teach both sides respectfully, and do not portray any side in a bad light. I highly respect these teachers because you do not know their political affiliation. 

For the opposing viewpoint see: Aquinas embraces the real Christian values of love and acceptance by Sadie Ackley and Taylor Windheim

Read more about how the rift surfaced between parents and alumni: The culture wars come to Aquinas

But on multiple occasions, like-minded friends would be bashed by teachers and administrators for thinking the way we do. During President Biden’s inauguration, one student was in Math class when the teacher stopped teaching, raised her voice, and insisted we watch on TV. Thinking back to President Trump’s inauguration, none of the teachers mentioned it or forced us to watch; many, in fact, made rude comments and snide remarks about our new president. We couldn’t believe the disrespect. How did they not know that some of their students actually were excited about the new administration?

I have never been more embarrassed to be an Aquinas student than on the day last November when Mr. and Mrs. Robert Agostinelli came to speak to a hand-picked group of juniors and seniors. A few students walked out and were not punished for their rude and disrespectful behavior. It’s okay to not agree with a particular speaker’s beliefs, but one must have respect for all viewpoints even though they may not be your own. There is no excuse to leave in the middle of a presentation, especially at a Catholic school. There was a Q and A after the speech in which anyone could ask questions or have a friendly debate. I wish those kids would’ve taken advantage of that opportunity. All could have learned something new. 

The Agostinellis’ speeches that day were what Aquinas needed. For far too long, conservative students were getting far-left viewpoints within our classes and it was a relief and joy to finally have someone of such success with shared viewpoints come and speak. After the meeting, it was all anyone talked about. But the following week, students from all grades, 6-12, were going to counseling sessions in the band room that the administration had set up during lunch periods. Teachers were crying and consoling students, telling them the school should not have had the Agostinellis come speak. The Agostinellis were even uninvited to the Aquinas home football game that night. I was confused because the majority of us in the audience loved what the Agostinellis had to say; some of us had sent text messages to our parents that day about how excited we were about the talks. At the counseling sessions, we expressed our view that those students that walked out should be punished. If the roles were reversed, we know conservative kids would have been punished. 

We continue to stand up for ourselves and be a voice that so many don’t have. The administrators and faculty need to stop being so political. The school should be religious, not political; bring people together, not divide us. Please don’t bring politics into everything; it only creates division. If, for example, one viewpoint is spoken of one day, I would hope that a differing viewpoint would be discussed the following day. We need, now more than ever, to be taught HOW to think and not WHAT to think. I pray that change comes soon. 

Alex Kennedy is a senior at Aquinas Institute. A fellow Aquinas senior, Alexis, who asked that her last name be withheld, contributed to this article.

2 thoughts on “Aquinas should teach how to think, not what to think

  1. Hopefully, Alex & Alexis understand that even students can be, and should be challenged publicly, which hopefully will help them continue to grow and mature regarding their thinking and writing skills.

    Their article reminds me of the adage that if you’re big enough to dish it out (public display of political-belief-system), then you should be big enough to take it (public critique of innuendos and illogical assertions).

    For starters, I would like to ask them, whether or not the summer of 2020 was really a “summer of rioting,” or was it a summer of rebellion, and have they been taught the difference between the two?

    Secondly, IF “There is video footage of an ELA teacher spewing hate about [your] former [racist] U.S. President, [and] an administrator who was there [shaking] his head in agreement,” would you please tell us where the footage can be accessed? Surely, you don’t THINK that we are just going to take your word for it — do you?

    Also, politically speaking, as it relates to so-called “both sides” — do you NOT know and understand that MANY are NOT on either of the Democrat or Republican so-called “sides”??? Additionally, do you really mean to tell us that your idea of so-called “respect” is for educators whose practice is grounded in Catholicism “not [to] portray any side in a bad light,” even when the top leader of one so-called “side” (your former President) routinely spews BLATANTLY SEXIST AND RACIST comments like “Grab ’em by the pu _ _y, [and] Those shitholes send us the people that they don’t want. We don’t need more Haitians???” REALLY???

    “There is no excuse to leave in the middle of a presentation, especially at a Catholic school.” WHAT??? Apparently, you two must have skipped your “logic” classes — because the latter statement turns logic upside down, on its head, e.g., hearing a speaker spew RACIST comments at a catholic school, or anywhere else for that matter, but ” especially at a Catholic school,” is precisely a sound reason “to leave in the middle of a presentation.”

    Don’t be like your former President, e.g., don’t make things up. You have absolutely no evidence, nor proof that “If the roles were reversed, we know conservative kids would have been punished.” That’s nothing more or less than an unsubstantiated OPINION deceptively presented as fact.

    “The school should be religious, not political; bring people together, not divide us.” Is that really what you believe (deep-down in your Catholic heart), e.g., what the “Agostinellis’ speeches that day” were designed to do was “bring people together, not divide” y’all???

    References:

    https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/08/us/donald-trump-tape-transcript.html

    https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/white-house/trump-referred-haiti-african-countries-shithole-nations-n836946

    https://www.vox.com/2016/7/25/12270880/donald-trump-racist-racism-history

  2. Great article and refreshing to see students expressing themselves in a way that supports what they believe in. I concur, if one doesn’t agree with something they should ask questions or at the very least address concerns at that moment. Stepping out or being rude does not work and will not work unless certain things happen first.

    Dr. Martin Luther King addressed direct action in a specific way. Unlike those students who left the speech, MLK would have one lead with this… in any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps:

    1. Collection of the facts to determine whether an injustices exists.
    2. Negotiation (speak with those that you feel have done you wrong.)
    3. Purification (commit yourself to your cause)

    finally…
    4. Direct action (protest)

    These students who stepped out of the speech applied very little of what MLK was speaking about. MLK’s above steps turned a whole nation for the better.

    Direct action (Like rioting in the summer of 2020.) of leaving the Agostinelli speech skipped directly over the first 3 steps. In doing this, it ensured the very offenses the students were concerned about could not be completely addressed in the community of public discourse, where a better understanding could be reached by the speakers, the students and the community.

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