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School culture focused on homogeneous mindset, away from critical thinking

    - MORRISAs the last school year came to a close, and likewise my time in high school, I was left with a couple concerns regarding the priorities and provided education throughout Portland Public Schools.

In my time at Grant we settled into a new sociopolitical age in America, Portland, and our own school community. This new age is one in which safe spaces, trigger warnings, and a cognizance of personal comfort have become a priority.

This is certainly a good thing in how it provides an environment that normalizes issues like mental health, gender identity and sexuality, and past trauma. The converse to this, though, is that the quick rise of this climate in Grant has made the school feel like a place in which learning comes second to emotion.

Various events over the last few years have brought this to my attention. From minor comments in the halls to larger issues that impact the entire student body, a new culture has arisen, seemingly inextricable from the prioritization of political correctness above learning. This phenomenon poses a danger to the students, the administration, and the community in how it bars students from learning how to think critically about the ideas that saturate the world around them.

The culture of the school has made a shift away from learning and towards a preservation of a homogeneous group mindset that is not conducive to valuable life learning. I cannot imagine that this is desirable from an administrative perspective. During Race Forward, 'courageous conversation' is one of the precedents that is set, but this feels like a taboo attitude in any other context at school. Bringing up controversial, painful, or even different perspectives is met with silence or forcible shushing, which creates a taboo around effective and valuable conversation. The purpose of high school is to educate a new generation of young people to be capable of conducting intelligent, thoughtful, and mature conversation and thus being contributing members of society. This goal seems nearly impossible when we as a student body are not given a space in which beliefs can be contested and mature debate can be demonstrated or practiced.

My time at Grant has been rewarding in countless ways. I am grateful for so many opportunities I've been given, but I feel that our community is being held back. Adolescence is a time in which group mindset is the natural fallback and to this point Grant has not only been allowing this alienation of beliefs which are 'other,' but encouraging it.

We cannot possibly hope to become a mature, cogent, and articulate people without having an opportunity to adopt and practice these skills. An aversion to honest conversation seems to dominate Grant and the first step to rectifying this is with the administration. More than just a token effort, the school must begin to value and encourage critical, nuanced thought if it hopes to instill this value in its students.

Madeleine Morris is a 2018 graduate of Grant High School, and planned to study clinical psychology at McGill University in the fall. She can be reached at 503-351-5563 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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