The death of discussion on college campuses

Opinion G logoBy Alyssa Menard |

They say college is where you go to learn and cultivate your ideas about the world and gain knowledge that will challenge your beliefs. Yet, you would be hard pressed to find a student who hasn’t experienced bias in the classroom at least once in their college career. If they say they haven’t, it’s only because the professor or students shared the same opinion as them and they never noticed.

But when did college become a battleground of ideas? Instead of sharing ideas, people jump to defend their own and point out why you’re wrong for disagreeing with them.

Now more than ever it has become impossible to discuss politics on a college campus without some kind of hostility surrounding the discussion. Have we really become so close-minded that college campuses are now just a scaled down version of Washington D.C?

I could tell you my political belief, but would you continue to read what I have to say if it differed from yours? If I’m a Republican, I’m a crazy, racist, conservative who loves Fox News, hates gays and wants to force women to have babies. If I’m a Democrat, I’m a pro—choice, lazy single, uneducated drug-using mother who is free-riding the American system.

I am none of those things, nor am I an independent. But 9 out of 10 times you’ll find me sitting quietly in the classroom filled with students whom I disagree with, but won’t speak up because they talk assuming everyone thinks the way they do. It’s not that I’m very soft-spoken, but I do have a hard time speaking up when a conversation is dominated by debate, and not discussion.

I give due credit to professors in the education system who manage to evade me of their political ideologies. I spend a great deal of each semester analyzing my professors in an attempt to extract their political parties. Some are clear as day and make no effort to hide their disdain for their opposing party. Others elude me and I value those professors more than any others because I feel I can take what they have to say for its value, and not the political ideology behind it. I didn’t choose to study political science to reinforce what I already believed. I chose this field of study because it interests me. Because I wanted to understand how systems work, how people relate and negotiate with others, where it all started, and where it’s all going.

Naturally not every college student is a political science major and it’s not important for perhaps a graphic design major to have worldly political views, but it’s disheartening to see the divide on campus between those who care too much about their political party and those who could care less about Obamacare or America’s foreign policy.

On numerous occasions I’ve met someone new and somehow the topic of politics come up. When they ask what political party I’m affiliated with, if my answer is different from theirs, I typically get a sarcastic, “Oh, no we definitely can’t be friends.” It may be funny for a moment, but rarely do I ever speak to them again. If I had answered the same as them, would we have talked?

We are all too young to be this radical. No one on a typical college campus has been truly affected by tax increases or decreases yet. None of us have really had to worry about being burned or propped up by the Affordable Care Act; my last article proved that point. Ironically, as students, we are so quick to voice our opinion about political parties, but rarely have insight into the legislation that is circulating right now. The things young people have the most opinions about are ironically the things least affecting young people.

It’s time for more open mindedness to the issues that are affecting us directly.

In 30 years, when we’ve all been out into the real world living in the United States economy, depending on government legislation to better our standard of living, will we then be able to have radical beliefs either way? Life experience is the best test of our beliefs and few of us have really had any yet.

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