Three Students Share Perspectives on the Turning Point Controversy

Turning Point’s Double Standard

Whether by email chain or in conversation, the entire GDS student body is familiar with the controversy surrounding Turning Point USA’s (TPUSA) presence within the high school’s walls. While my personal ideals may not be aligned with those of TPUSA, what frustrates me is that its founding was born out of disparities in the GDS policy that permit or prohibit each club’s existence. 

Near the beginning of the school year, I attempted to institute a club at GDS that would be unofficially sponsored by FairFight, an organization that helps to mitigate voter suppression and engage in nationwide voter participation efforts to promise fairer elections. I hoped that a GDS FairFight club would raise awareness about voter suppression techniques by elevating an already successful organization in the months leading up to the primaries and national election. 

However, GDS is designated as a 501(c)(3) institution, which means no club can be affiliated with an external organization that endorses a political party or politician. FairFight publicly endorses the Democratic party, and for this reason alone, I was unable to institute FairFight as a club. Yet somehow, GDS’s Turning Point club was able to get around this rule, albeit currently deemed a ‘club’ by administration instead of a chapter. 

To be clear, no one in the GDS administration is to blame for Turning Point’s existence. In fact, the GDS faculty has done an incredible job satisfying and supporting my visions and that of many of my classmates. From screening documentaries and organizing city-wide events to broadcasting club efforts across the community (and even offering food during such events!), administrators were eager to make my hopes a reality, as long as policy authorized them. Thus, complaints should be aimed solely at the incongruities in GDS policy that permitted Turning Point but prohibited FairFight. We have been told that partisan clubs are not allowed, but Turning Point was approved even as a conservative nonprofit.

For a school that prides itself on its commitment to social justice and orients its entire curriculum to foster discussions about intersections of identity and equity in the broader community, GDS’s policy governing clubs that do exactly that—regardless of political affiliation—is inconsistent and challenging to navigate. 

Rather than allow the Turning Point club to set a double standard that may be a result of GDS bending over backward to accommodate a conservative viewpoint, the GDS policy concerning political organizations and their representation on campus must become more equitable. Rather than eradicate GDS’s Turning Point club as a whole and face the subsequent backlash sparked by accusations that GDS caters to a specific mindset and political set of ideals, the process to establish new clubs at the high school must be made easier. GDS must more clearly state its club policy and take action to revise it—at the moment, it seems arbitrary.

Maddie Feldman ’22

TPUSA at GDS

When we disagree with someone, it can often feel easier to dismiss the opinion they espouse by associating them with a label—like sexist, racist, xenophobe— instead of having a meaningful conversation with them and potentially learning something new. Too often nowadays, labels are thrown at individuals and organizations such as Turning Point USA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with the mission of identifying, educating, training and organizing students to promote the principles of fiscal responsibility, free markets and limited government. TPUSA and our club both stand against all hate and fall under the umbrella of mainstream conservatism, which stands completely separately from the alt-right, a notoriously hateful movement.

I think dialogues with unfamiliar people you disagree with are healthy because everybody walks away having learned something new. These sorts of conversations that challenge the way you think are some of the things that you can expect at our club meetings at GDS. Furthermore, talking with people whom you disagree with helps counter polarization and reminds us that we all have to coexist together at the end of the day.

Having an actual TPUSA chapter at GDS could not be more necessary—especially in such a politically polarized climate when many are afraid to speak their mind for fear of being labeled politically incorrect. Unlike a Young Republicans Club or a Conservatives Club, our Turning Point Club has a clear mission: educating students at GDS on the benefits of limited government, fiscal responsibility and free markets. This will help those who wish to espouse these views defend their opinions in and outside of GDS. During our club meetings we have held this year, dissenting voices have been guaranteed the opportunity to rationalize their position in front of a group and have productive intellectual discussions. These sorts of healthy interactions are necessary in order to counteract our polarized political climate where individuals and groups are reaching completely different conclusions from the same set of facts.

Viraj Prakash ’20

Defending Conservatives at GDS

I am not here to defend white nationalists, and I am not here to say that we should excuse white nationalism. I am here to point out the deeper issues in the GDS community—and the controversy about the Turning Point club illustrates these issues perfectly. 

I would like to preface with two things: First, I believe that changing the name of the Turning Point club would be the right approach in order to satisfy all members of the community and would be a solid compromise. And second, I would like to address the misinformation that occurred throughout the argument that the email chain caused. Many times, I was told that the GDS chapter of TPUSA was listed on the TPUSA website, which I found to be untrue. 

On Turning Point USA’s website there is a map of all of its chapters—GDS is not on the map. This is not the first time GDS students have been misinformed, and I do believe that there is a longstanding issue with GDS students using anecdotal evidence. 

I also believe that GDS does not welcome and accept conservative students as a whole, and immediately writes off the entire conservative movement as one of racism and sexism. Many reading this may feel like they are being attacked, and if you do feel this way, I would like to invite you to think long and hard about why you feel attacked by my saying this. If you truly weren’t part of that line of thought, you wouldn’t feel upset. 

To prove this, I would like to state plainly that while the all-school email chain was unraveling, many students said to my face that they couldn’t believe that I was a conservative or that I was defending conservatives. They were saying this as if it were a bad thing to do. I would also like to point to the fact that one of my peers, whom I will not name, was once bullied to the point of crying during a political discussion in which they spoke about why they were a Republican. 

Whether liberals at GDS would like to face it or not, many of us have implicit biases against conservative people. Even though I myself am a social democrat, far away from TPUSA’s line of belief, I believe it is important to listen more during conversations in order to gain a better understanding of conservatism.

And lastly, I believe that we as GDS students constantly talk about what we want to change, but struggle to walk the walk. The Turning Point controversy is a direct example of this. We were upset about it what, a month ago? Now look what has changed. Next to nothing. And here we are, still talking, but not affecting any change.

Eli Faber ’22

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