Over the course of the past year, the American media has showcased topics such as the offensive history behind the Confederate Flag and the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage; these topics have gotten many friends and foes alike into heated arguments. As the drama of these debates have played out through social media and other forms of public communication, I have pondered whether or not the age of intelligent conversation has passed.
For today’s college student and those affiliated with a university or college, this should be more than just a minor concern. The Business, English, Psychology, Sociology and Theology departments at SNU have many classes centering around lecture/discussion classes, not to mention General Education classes and other departments.
Being a person who does not love conflict, I can distinctly remember several class periods over the course of the past four semesters in which I wished to get out of the lecture as fast as possible because of the heated debate that had started in the classroom, regardless of whether it was about choosing your child’s genes before they were born, the idea of modesty or how to define a soul.
While I believe these types of debates are important to the process of learning, sometimes these discussions can get out of hand and become counterproductive to the purpose of starting them, making some students feel as if their opinions are automatically dismissed. This does not promote an environment of learning or a community whatsoever.
So, how can we remedy this issue on our campus?
1) Agree to disagree. Always go into a controversial conversation with the mindset that no one will ever agree with you fully, and your part in the conversation is not to force someone to change their minds. Knowing this from the start of the debate will help the conversation stay on track.
2) Be prepared to give grace. Even if you believe that a person’s viewpoint is wrong, remember that you have had a different life experience than them, and as a result you may be more open-minded. That does not mean the person is a bad person; rather, they have yet to learn how to see from several opposing perspectives.
3) It’s okay to be passionate. Don’t be afraid to speak your mind, but respect others’ passion for their opinions as well. Keep your voice level, ask questions as to why they think the way they do and give them your full attention. You can even comment on their argument to let them know you are engaged and want to have a thought-provoking debate without the drama.
Although I realize that these pointers are things that most likely everyone needs to work on (myself included), I hope that these tips can help SNU form a stronger community in which no one is afraid to talk about challenging subjects because we have reestablished the art of intelligent debate.