As she tells it:
The question of understanding and coexisting with other viewpoints has been recent but all-consuming for me. I’m barely legal drinking age, the daughter of a self-identified queer woman and an immigrant, an only child of divorced parents, never stepped foot into a church, grew up on The Daily Show. I showed up on campus already knowing the general liberal “creed.”
Instead of shedding the shackles of a conservative upbringing, as many of my peers announce they're doing, I’ve been learning that my childhood was not common whatsoever. I don’t think it’s right to say that I’m going “backwards,” but it feels weird trying to genuinely understand religious/conservative views from a liberal background when most people I know so easily did the vice-versa (and changed ideologies because of it).
I’m not trying to change.
I just want to understand the 50+ percent of the population that had a different childhood than I did so I can stop imagining them as “evil, bigoted” strawmen.
That sort of search for new knowledge and enhanced understanding of others can be among the most enriching, rewarding parts of higher education. And as this student is discovering, the cultivation of charity, modesty, and empathy are necessary for success.
As she put it:
The other night I had a conversation with two friends – all of us liberal college students, but Friend 1 was from a “mixed” liberal/libertarian family, Friend 2 was from a conservative family, and then me. Friend 1 made the claim that whether or not someone is a good person is independent of political affiliation, but Friend 2 shied away from that notion.
I believe the discomfort from Friend 2 came from the word “good,” which she interpreted strictly as her definition of “good person.” I think the most helpful rephrase is that whether or not someone is being their idea of a good person is independent of their political affiliation. It’s still going to take work to understand why people behave, think, and vote the ways they do. But believing that everyone is striving to do good, and learning what their idea of “good” is and why, will make it easier. And from there it may be easier to live together. Like I said before, I’m still quite young, so my thoughts are most likely common knowledge at this point.
I would argue that conceiving of oneself as having a lot to learn about others, rather than as a possessor of moral clarity obligated to teach or shame the ignorant, is an increasingly uncommon approach for young people navigating their undergraduate years—and that some administrators and faculty do a disservice to college students, giving them the impression that all important moral questions are settled and apparent, such that their telos as undergrads is to get woke, seek converts, and punish heretics. Some undergraduates are going so far as to demand that the faculty at the pricey colleges they attend undergo mandatory instructional programs in “cultural competency,” as if students are called to enlighten not only their peers, but their teachers, too.