Opinion: Pop the polarization

Students benefit by opening themselves to political diversity

Your college friends are a pretty big deal. A research article by Dartmouth professor Janice McCabe claimed that the connections you make can affect your success. 

If the people you connect with can affect your success — then it can be beneficial to expand your peer circle to include those who radically disagree with you. 

One of the primary reasons we come to college is to expand our knowledge. 

If you truly want to make the most of your college experience and future, you have to start by reaching across the political aisle. By openly discussing your ideals with a variety of students, you have the opportunity to see a fresh point of view and inevitably learn about another perspective you were unaware of.

“My advice would be to get as involved as you can and to not rule anything out, because when I came to ASU as a freshman I was still a registered Republican," said David Howman, a justice studies masters student and president of College Libertarians. "And a couple of years later that was not the case."

In comparison to the 90s, college students' tolerance toward controversial opinions have declined. In 2018, the tolerance to allow a "racist speaker" on campus was 61%, according to a General Social Survey. In the 90s, that same tolerance was 20% higher, at 81%. 

Another General Social Survey showed that students supported communists speaking on campus 79% of the time in 2018, compared to 87% in 1990.

ASU students feel that both sides of the political aisle have a moral superiority over one another which can stop them from interacting with one another.

GSS Data Explorer | NORC at the University of Chicago

Since 1972, the GSS has been monitoring societal change and studying the growing complexity of American society. It is one of the most influential, and most frequently analyzed, sources of information in the social sciences. GSS Data Explorer, from NORC at the University of Chicago, makes it easier than ever to use the data collected by the GSS.

Bella Cleveland, a freshman studying special education and elementary education said that she knows that there's a lot of different people at ASU, but she's worried about sharing her religious background. She said she is nervous because she was bullied as a child for not being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

By preventing political polarization on campus, we can fully comprehend what the opposing side believes or why our friends have certain viewpoints.

“I don’t agree that you, when you become students at colleges, have to be coddled and protected from different points of view,” former President Barack Obama said at a town hall in Iowa in 2015. 

Whether these peers help you to reinforce your own convictions or you realize that your friends have valid opinions that change your ideals — the point is that you as an individual have grown and you can empathize with people who aren’t exactly like you.

College is meant to help us grow and we simply can’t do that if we “create this echo chamber of hearing your ideas over and over," Howman said.

 As long as we live in a society where our right to free speech is protected by the First Amendment, we have to accept that not everybody will agree with us politically.


Reach the columnist at slbrinso@asu.edu or follow @Stacy_L_Anders on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the  author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its  editors.

Want to join the conversation? Send an email to opiniondesk.statepress@gmail.com. Keep letters under 500 words and be sure to include your university affiliation. Anonymity will not be granted.

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