Schmitt: Gaining more perspectives

Columnist Dawson Schmitt encourages us to reach out and gain new perspectives. 

Dawson Schmitt

In a time where America and the world are becoming more and more polarized on issues, it is easy to fall into echo chambers of like-minded people. However, refusing to reach out and gather multiple perspectives prevents unity and even compromise. 

Growing up, we are taught to stick to our values and fight for what we believe in, yet what seems to be a forgotten element is talking to those who disagree with you and never wanting to hear an opposing viewpoint because if you don’t, you feel like you have accomplished the goal of persuasion. But really, we are in an environment where people are reluctant to share what is on their minds. So what is the value of hearing a new perspective? 

I chose to write a story about student loan debt and the Biden administration’s withdrawal from serious talks about debt forgiveness and free college for my journalism class. I talked to the president of the College Democrats on campus and the head of the political science department, knowing what their stances would favor Biden’s plan. 

As a person not completely in favor of broad debt forgiveness, I heard interesting arguments explaining the importance of relief. I also interviewed Armaan “Guppy” Gupta, the president of Turning Point USA at Iowa State and a freshman majoring in pre-business. 

He said along with any debt forgiveness, there needs to be reform. He said that to help former, future and current students, lawmakers should: abolish FAFSA or limit the amount borrowers can take out in loans, force public schools to limit their tuitions and encourage more private lendings of money, but at the lower interest rate FAFSA provides. 

He said that many young people had been forced by society to pursue a college education while sometimes not knowing what they want to do with their degree. For students who know what they want to do upon graduating, free college should be a considerable factor in ensuring continuing education is affordable, albeit some restrictions should be in place for undecided students. 

I honestly didn’t expect this argument to come from him, yet it was compelling. After interviewing Gupta, we continued to sit and talk, primarily about the idea of talking to others we may not necessarily agree with. Disagreement is certainly becoming a lost art. Universities are meant to be places where students gather new perspectives, but today, they are becoming places of conformity. 

Students that come to college and reject conformity are driven into their echo chambers, denying chances to reach across the aisle for a new perspective. Thoughtful conversations are replaced with trolling and name-calling. Students are called racists, white supremacists or snowflakes because someone disagrees with them. 

Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt wrote in “The Coddling of the American Mind: How good intentions and bad ideas are setting a generation for failure,” parents should “prepare the child for the road, not the road for the child.” Parents are meant to protect their children as they navigate the challenges life puts forth, yet they cannot be prepared for everything. That involves the horror of someone disagreeing with you. By talking to more people and learning why they think a certain way, we become better equipped to take on issues in society. 

We are not experts in everything. Talk to as many people as you can and gain new perspectives. Do not get trapped in the never-ending cycle of distrusting those on the “outside.”