When did we stop listening to each other? When did we stop learning from each other? When did we get so obsessed with being right that we stopped talking altogether, out of fear of being wrong? 

This has been on my mind for a while, and I’m guilty of the same mindset. We all are. 

We have to stop shouting at each other and tearing each other down, because we might as well be yelling at a brick wall. When was the last time someone’s mind was changed by sheer force? When has tearing someone down ever worked? You’re not encouraging them to see another side; you’re just making them defensive. 

Maybe we all need to go back to kindergarten and remember the golden rule. Use the “I agree with ____, but think that ____” template. Because if we’re supposed to be the young adults we say we are, why can’t we listen to each other? Why can’t we remember that we’re talking to other human beings? 

We all started our college careers in WRT 105, learning how to have conversations. And I’m sorry to tell you, but our entry-level writing course has real life applications. In that class, you didn’t write a five paragraph essay with some text analysis like you learned in high school. Instead, you built off a continuing conversation, you learned how to agree and disagree, and how to communicate. We learned how to talk to each other in that class, so I know we can do it. We’re just choosing not to. 

I understand that we’re angry. We’re frustrated. I think we’re all scared of doing the wrong thing, and in our panic, we threw away the basics of discussion. Stress pervades our lives, and we enter every new day with an anxious uncertainty.

But in this haze of emotion, we need to look outside ourselves and remember that we don’t know what is going on behind closed doors. A message we’ve been hearing on repeat for the past few months is the reminder to be cognizant of what may be going on in someone’s life, and what they might be dealing with. 

But that’s not what we’re doing. We’re allowing our emotions to swirl into the perfect storm of stress and anger, pushing our humanity into a backseat in our forums. We’re weaponizing conversations when we need them most. We aren’t talking anymore. I don’t know what we’re doing. 

College used to be late-night debates in the library, in your dorm room, or over dinner. Maybe it’s our access to phones that changed that. Because why should you take the time to have thoughtful, in-person discussions when you can type your arguments out in less than a minute with no instant rebuttal? 

Changing someone’s mind doesn’t happen in an hour. It doesn’t happen in a day. It happens over a long period of time. There needs to be multiple discussions, a continuing narrative, and I’m not telling you to always agree with the other side, but at least to listen. You don’t change minds without listening to what they’re saying in the first place.

College is where we learn to discuss. We all grew up in our hometowns, our own different universes. We come from big cities and small towns, different cultures, backgrounds, and livelihoods. College is a cacophony of perspectives, where you’re challenged to question your own. 

We’ve been brought into an environment where we can spar with our thoughts and come to conclusions that we may never have if we hadn’t ventured outside our own tiny universes. 

It’s where we grow and where we are challenged — and we all need to be challenged. We need our thoughts to be battle-tested because, while we might be on the right track, we can always learn more. We are all human, and we know how to talk to each other. But instead, we’re choosing ignorance, because it’s easier to assume you’re right than to question if you’re wrong.

Tagged: discourse

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