College is a time of self-discovery and learning. During college, students find their passions, recognize the change they hope to make in the world, strengthen their political affiliations, and gain so much knowledge about themselves. This is all contingent on the pursuit of knowledge. I believe that there is no better way to improve who you are than to learn. It expands your capacity for empathy for people who have different ideology than yourself. Not only does your empathy grow, but so does your ability to function in the world. The more you know, the more you can contribute. Not only in the workplace, but all areas of life. The pursuit of knowledge is essential to be a functioning, contributing member of society.
I often wonder, how little does someone have to care about themselves to not want to learn? All too often I see this at NW. People sitting on their phone in class, having their AirPods in during chapel, and not attending educational events. Not only is this disrespectful to the speaker, but it also shortchanges yourself out of reaching your full potential. All of these educational areas of campus have something in common. The person that students are supposed to be listening to are scholars who are smarter and more educated than us. It is so important to listen to and learn from these people. These are our professors, chapel speakers and leaders at NW.
I often feel like people are so stuck in their ways that they do not take the time to listen to what others have to say. I am not saying you need to agree with everything the speaker is saying, I am saying you need to actively listen. Hearing different viewpoints will do one of two things: it will either make you reconsider your viewpoint, or it will strengthen your existing one. When you fail to put yourself into educational spheres, neither of those two things will happen. You will stay stagnant. Our circles then become echo chambers of the same thoughts and ideas circulating. There is no growth in this space, there is no learning.
College is a special time in life where knowledge is handed to us on a silver platter. NW is so lucky to have so many amazing professors and renowned speakers. These people are passionate about their work and want to teach the next generation, but so often as students, we disrespect them. Through dismissive listening, preoccupation, and poor attendance, we do not value voices of education in our academic circles.
What respecting those voices and ideas looks like is showing up ready to listen. It is putting your phone away, taking out yourAirPods, and engaging in the conversation. It is showing up to events that will teach you something. It is not getting defensive but being willing to consider an array of viewpoints. I believe that as a student body, we have been lacking in this area.
So, students, encourage your peers. Invite them to events, challenge their preconceived notions. Let’s call each other out when we are being disrespectful of voices of knowledge at our institution. Take advantage of the privilege it is to be able to attend college and to have an incredible brain that retains information. Let us not be stagnant in our echo chambers but take the time to engage with thoughts that differ from our own. Let’s ask questions and be curious learners. Let’s be a student body that is eager to learn.