You can free your mind at college, but only if you talk

Coming from a small high school of approximately 400 students, located in a small town of approximately 4,000 residents, I was surrounded by a typical group of very opinionated people for my four years of secondary education. Flaming liberals, young republicans, die-hard vegetarians and religious fanatics comprised the greater bulk of my graduating class of 80 students; almost everyone had an opinion.

I was (and am) no exception to this. I staunchly supported my personal political, economic and social opinions during my high school years, and I frequently discussed them with others. Through these sessions, I learned much about how to better understand other people’s perspectives on controversial issues, why people support their respective viewpoints, and how I could become a more tolerant, open-minded person in the overall process of analyzing and interpreting different takes on controversial issues.

Many heated arguments raged, and more than a few threats and profanities were exchanged between us, but I believe I learned a lot from those few scant years of person-to-person interaction and debate.

Based on my experiences at the University so far, my fellow college students retain the same capacity for debate as students of lower education levels do. They all have their own unique perspectives on many classic and contemporary issues, and they are not afraid to express their own particular beliefs (within the boundaries of reason and respect for others). I applaud this.

Unfortunately, according to my encounters with certain other students, not all of them seem to have the desire to do so.

Of course, this is only normal; not everyone enjoys casual debate and philosophy as others do. That said, it would seem that select people whom I have spoken with are loath to discuss such issues in any shape or form. The reason? It would seem they suffer from bouts of indifference.

Personally, I believe apathy, even in small doses, can numb a person to potentially mind-opening experiences. Although it is a condition which most everyone experiences at one point or another in life, college is most definitely not the ideal time to adopt such a mindset.

Remember, college is an excellent time for someone to reinvent or rediscover his or herself. Although having an apathetic attitude would guarantee little to no argument from someone on his or her part (giving the illusion of open-mindedness), that person’s aloof approach to the issue would indicate a case of “It’s-not-that-I’m-a-jerk-it’s-just-that-I-don’t-really-care-because-it-doesn’t-affect-me-at-all” syndrome.

What I mean to say is this: In order to better interpret, analyze, perceive and simply understand the viewpoints of other people from differing social demographics and cultural backgrounds, it is imperative for people to define their own special viewpoints from the assorted opinions, traditions, values, theories and traits of their own specific upbringings. By doing so, people can acquire a better sense of why and how others form their own personalized beliefs based on their lives.

However, when going about this, it is imperative for one to maintain a sense and aura of cosmopolitan quasi-neutrality towards all such opinions in general. I believe the term is known as “cautious skepticism.” In doing this, one can treat all human-conjured social, political, economic and religious perspectives in the same way, seeing them for what they really are.

The University is quite a diverse educational institution. People of numerous different creeds, races, ethnicities, cultures and origins come from all over to attend classes at the University, and they bring with them their individual values and world perspectives.

With such an assortment of pupils here to study, it is of utmost importance for everyone to pay respect to other people’s exclusive views, while staying true to one’s own ideas. It may come across as being a bit ambiguous, but one should be able to find a “happy zone” in between respect for personal views and widespread issues and ideologies. In doing this, one can (fortunately) avoid the plague of apathy, indifference and disregard which afflicts many teenagers and college students.

Although it may sound contradictory, acquiring a greater understanding of, and respect for, one’s own personal beliefs (with a healthy dose of “cautious skepticism” included) can allow one to become more open-minded about opposing issues due to the newfound knowledge of why and how opinions are formed in the first place. Through doing so, we can all become more tolerant and respectful of each other’s beliefs, all the while giving apathy and narrow-mindedness well-deserved kicks in their respective faces (Isn’t that great? You get to better yourself and kick something!)

Long story short: Keep your mind open to new ideas, know your beliefs, respect others’ views, and form your own opinions as well.