America’s favorite snowflakes go back to school this week on college campuses across the country, and I’m hoping the new year will inspire some of those snowflakes to melt and go back to acting like normal, rational human beings again (here’s to hoping that rationality does actually exist beneath that flaky exterior).
However, as a member of the snowflake generation who departs from the norm by being conservative, I have even more hope that change can actually occur in the debates that occur on our campuses. I hope to see conservatives change the conversation, but not in the way that we’ve been doing it thus far. If we’re truly going to change the nature of our campuses, we’re going to have to put aside the desire for a flashy message and start portraying a genuine one.
What should be a training ground for adulthood has transformed into an intellectual daycare. The most often reported cases of restricted speech are perpetrated mainly by liberal groups on campus, but we’re not blameless here ourselves. Putting professors on a “watch list” for holding views opposite your own is not only extreme, but it discourages constructive conversation and only fuels the fires that lead to conflict between liberal professors and conservative students. Attempting to “trigger” fellow students because they disagree with you is only going to lead to a bigger divide. No one has ever insulted another into changing their mind. This occurs on both sides, and both have room for improvement; but I’m disappointed to see conservative students stooping to the level of those to which they claim to be the alternative. I’m not talking about the crazy, extreme professors who give poor grades for being conservative– I’m talking about our fellow students, the ones we’ll be running the country with someday, and saying that meaningful conversation will be a welcome change.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” There is, however, a distinct difference between discussing people themselves and discussing ideas with people. Talking at someone who disagrees with you is as useful as talking to the wall behind them; talking with someone who disagrees with you is where real progress is made. I don’t care if you’ve read every work by Locke and Hobbes and Rousseau and you consider yourself to be the second coming of Adam Smith– speaking to someone as if they are inferior to you is only going to evoke a negative reaction from that person and will lead to conflict. If, instead, you consider the humanity of the liberal student standing before you and view them as more than a political ideology, you may find yourself– gasp!– enjoying their company regardless of your differences in opinion. Some of my best friends are die-hard, worked-for-Hillary Democrats, yet we somehow coexist without much struggle.
Facts are on our side; conservative policies are proven to work more efficiently in alleviating poverty and encouraging success regardless of one’s background. You should utilize these facts and compromise none of them. These facts, however, do not give you license to be a class-A jerk. Facts may not care about someone’s feelings, but the human being sharing those facts should care. The difference that comes from engaging opposing viewpoints and giving them the respect you seek for your own is astronomical. I’ve had conversations with students that resulted in them changing their ideological viewpoint on an issue, simply because time was set aside to actually have the conversation. The greatest gift you can give someone is your time, and investing in relationships with people is the most effective way of not only reaching them, but of earning their trust and creating a mutually beneficial atmosphere in which both of you can learn from and grow from experiencing another’s opinion.
Changing the conversation to encourage divisive behavior isn’t the type of change we need. Conservative college students must learn to see the humanity of their peers and realize that friendships can (and should) go deeper than politics, especially in an environment where a majority of people arguably have no idea what they actually think about Medicare and the debt ceiling. Don’t give in to the temptation to cause a stir and infuriate your counterparts; instead, choose to host constructive conversation. Support efforts by students to be involved, and partner with other groups to allow both viewpoints to be heard. Again, facts are on our side– if you portray conservatism correctly, you have no worry about what the other side says. It makes sense. Let’s not act irrational and portray a sane idea as something only kooks can believe in. Nothing will change the narrative on campus more than demonstrating that conservatives are not the heartless souls we’re constantly portrayed to be.