Since becoming conservative, I’ve noticed a few things about how I interact with my friends. There’s a time and a place for everything, and I’ve found it to be more productive to keep my political opinions to myself in the classroom. But is keeping quiet about issues that matter to me really worth it?

Pushback from the left is present on every campus in America. I live in Maryland, and as anyone can imagine, being conservative in a blue state is difficult. Late last year, I was encouraged to start a conservative organization at my high school. It took several weeks of me visiting the office every morning and encouraging the person in charge of authorizing clubs to do their job. Did it take so long because it was a conservative club? I can only speculate.

Is keeping quiet about issues that matter to me really worth it?

As the days went on, one thing became clear: some of my peers had an issue with the ideology behind the club. Our school has a young democrats club, and there’s no controversy over that. I began hearing rumors about what went on during meetings only after the first one. “Aren’t you guys just a Trump fan club?” “Are you all ‘Alt-Right’?”

I found myself selectively expressing my views. In my government and politics class, I’d be more willing to share my libertarian views than anything else. Why? Because I cared about what people thought about me. Because I know that as a conservative, I need to watch what I say for fear of being labelled a racist, xenophobic, sexist, etc. If the left can’t legislate censorship, they’ll make it socially unacceptable for you to have opinions.

I spoke about gun control last year for my English speech. While the class actually voted and said that my speech was the best that day, I got one of the worst grades. In fact, someone that quite literally showed a video of him getting a DUI to talk about drunk driving got a better grade than I did. All technical elements of my speech were flawless. The content was clearly conservative, yet still entirely factual. None of that mattered because my teacher is liberal.

Moments like these encouraged me to censor and silence myself. Like I said before, it’s important to know when to share your opinions and when not too. I grew up a liberal, a theatre kid in California. Last year when I realized how crazy I was, I slowly “came out” as conservative, and I lost a lot of friends.

People have a preconceptions about anyone bearing the title “republican”, and it’s worse when surrounded by immature high-schoolers. I’d say that I didn’t believe in rape culture in the west, and I’d hear that I didn’t believe that rape was real. Being misrepresented is hard, but after surrounding myself by tolerant people who don’t really care, life’s gotten easier.

I don’t think that any principled conservative should let the left silence them. We have two options in academia. Either choose to keep your political values to yourself, or voice your opinions and fight for what you think is right.

Check out Students for Life and, of course, Turning Point USA for more information about starting conservative clubs on your campus.

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