Whether for good or bad, it is almost impossible to avoid getting swept up in the craze of American politics nowadays. Many college students often find themselves trapped in a political bubble on campus, where almost everybody has the same frame of mind. It can be frustrating for those who just want to see another point of view. By branching out, you are given the opportunity to learn about different viewpoints and possibly reform or strengthen your own. Here are six ways to stay politically open minded in college.
1. Engage in Class Discussions
Oftentimes the last thing you want to do when you roll out of bed in your sweats and head to your 8 a.m. is speak to anyone, let alone have an academic discussion with a room full of people who may/may not understand your point of view. Even without the early morning grumpiness, class discussions can be frustrating. There's always the kid who talks more than their fair share, the kid who smirks at your opinions and the kid whose argument is so incomprehensible that you don't even know if he's talking about the discussion topic anymore. You may feel like you want to tear your hair out, but class discussions are a great way to hear others point of view. Your opinion might be completely different, but it's always a good idea to take a look at how others think and perceive things.
2. Attend Speeches and Lectures From a Variety of Speakers
Most colleges bring in outside speakers to give talks on different subjects and a lot of the time these can get political. Getting to listen to an outsider's perspective is always a refreshing way to pop the political bubble, as non-students aren't influenced by the politics of your campus. Make sure to attend lectures of speakers from all kinds of political backgrounds and walks of life in order to get the most out of your experience. If your college has a track record of only bringing in certain types of speakers, let them know that you would like to see a larger variety in the types of voices they bring to campus. Your college will appreciate the feedback and love that their students are taking initiative in helping the campus to grow as a whole. So when the opportunity presents itself, grab a few friends and make a night out of learning more about the world around you!
3. Attend Meetings for the "Other Side"
This is probably one of the more difficult things on this list (In this case, even I find it hard to practice what I preach). Politics in America has adopted a very "us versus them" mentality; it can be very easy to get caught up in all of the fighting and not listen whenever somebody says something you don't agree with (believe me, I'm guilty of it too). You don't have to attend every meeting or become an active member, but attending a meeting or two of a club that opposes your views isn't the worst thing you can do. Democrat college students, maybe try a Republican Club meeting. Pro-lifers, maybe attend a Reproductive Rights seminar. See what the other side has to say. Whether or not it changes your perspective is up to you, but in the end all that matters is that you made an effort to see someone else's point of view.
4. Do Your Research
I cannot stress this enough: read, read, read! You're in college, take advantage of the vast knowledge available for you to discover. Go to your campus library and pick up a few books on political theory from writers of all backgrounds. Examine how gender studies incorporates into modern politics. Look into the history of foreign relations with the United States. There are so many options and opinions for you to explore. You may feel like you already have mountains of reading to do for class, but set aside a bit of time each day to study the things you personally want to know more about. Crack open a book and get to it!
5. Actively Listen to Your Peers' Point of View
Hearing and listening are two very different things. You may be hearing what your classmate is trying to say to you, but are you actively trying to comprehend their words and emotions? Are you attempting to understand why they may feel a certain way, even if their point of view sounds completely irrational or absurd to you? Not everybody you come across is going to agree with you and it can be difficult to try to wrap your head around opposing thoughts. Just imagine how frustrated you would be if somebody else negated and belittled your opinions, and how worthless it would make you feel. Treat others' opinions with the same respect you want yours to be treated with and engage in understanding their side of the issue.
6. Remember That Everyone is Human
Everybody has thoughts and opinions just like you and you need to take a step back once in a while and examine the bigger picture. Everybody thinks what they believe is best for their country and their people, but sometimes we butt our heads trying to agree on what's best for everyone. In the end, we're all trying our best to build one great nation where everyone is well provided for, secure and content. We cannot get to that point if we drown each other in a sea of accusations and hate speech. So open your ears and learn a little more so we can all work together to do what's right.
Open dialogue is the key to success when it comes to what's best for our communities, our nation and our world. Open yourself up to new points of view and get on your way to becoming a better student and citizen.
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