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Diversity of thought

Photo By: pixabay


Sydney Shadeck, Opinion Editor

When asked to share opinions regarding the Penn State policies, a number of campus personnel felt unable to add personal input due to fear of speaking out of line according to University norms. Only University-approved response after University-approved response was recited to me. Would you not think, for a school touting their diverse population – proudly showcasing students of differing backgrounds, ethnicities, colors and shapes – an institution such as Penn State would happily encourage some diversity of thought as well?


In recent times, I have noticed an inability to express opinions that disagree with those accepted in a particular group. I have come to believe that this is fueled by the political realm, but due to the heightened nature of our political awareness, has crept into normal social and work worlds and affected our ability to effectively communicate opinions at all.


The lists able to be found detailing global accomplishments regarding freedom of speech throughout history show the undeniable power and necessity of freedom of expression; so many of thousands have fought and died for the concept. The Founding Fathers of the United States understood the idea to be so relevant as to include it in the basis for the country itself: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” If an idea is important enough to be included in the most basic laws of a nation, why have the people of that nation socially created an environment in which the workings of it are null?


Political leaders on both sides, but especially those following President Donald Trump, have reverted to rudimentary fear tactics and emotional appeal to try to increase the attractiveness and therefore strengthen support for their own groups. This mentality plays on the human psychology, pulling on our social cords and our innate need to belong. People are known to morph their publicly stated opinions to better fit those openly accepted by a whole. Thus, speaking out against norms risks ostracization and is therefore very rarely done. We feel the need to be respectful of the opinions of our peers, even if that means berating those of outsiders.


In sociopolitical feuds, small-scale or national, the people become increasingly divided and seem to forget what the source of the argument was: betterment. Usually, the motivation for any difference in opinion is a common goal of fixing an issue. The process of fixing and the desired outcomes differ, but the sentiment remains the same. The inability to see commonalities with the opposition is a predictable downfall in group work, but detrimental nonetheless.


While the political, and thus social, structure is pushing people into groups more easily definable according to beliefs and values, the walls being built between the groups cut off communication and leave those in any grouping to only hear and reiterate the cries of those they are grouped with. The dividing glass walls are complex as they are invisible, seemingly impenetrable, but in actuality, easily breakable.


It’s not just time for new ideas, it’s time for new ways of thinking. We need to be more diverse in thought, which can really only be achieved through open discussion, including civil debates. Groups, such as this renowned University we are lucky enough to attend, need to encourage interactions such as these among their members if they mean to truly better themselves. Individuals must re-learn to make independent judgements with sound reasoning and to share these with the public, and the public must be able to listen.


Instead of screaming at the walls with no chance of getting through, we must take steps to put ears to the walls, drill holes to let sound in, and go as far as to investigate other rooms from the inside. Think not only outside your own box, but in the boxes of others.