Think for yourself
Challenging the status quo should be celebrated
Throughout history, social change was spurred by a person who had an idea deemed to be unpopular, offensive or obscene. Women earned the right to vote, segregation was outlawed and same-sex marriages were legalized all because passionate people spoke out about something they believed in. Students should be encouraged to say what they think, regardless of their opinion, to encourage an open discussion of ideas and to promote social change.
During his lecture at GVSU on Feb. 15, David Banner shared some controversial opinions and perspectives about religion, prejudice and white supremacy. Banner's mantra that he repeated to the audience was "I don't care what you think about me, I just want you to think." Whether the audience agreed with Banner, he wanted them to think about what he was saying and form their own opinions, one way or the other.
We commend Banner for sharing his opinions openly, regardless of how controversial they are or what reaction he might receive. Without people in society standing up and sharing their beliefs, society would be stagnant, the status quo would never be challenged and change would never be made.
On campus, students should be encouraged to share their opinions and spark discussion on controversial issues. Events like Banner's lecture encourage students to think about the world they live in and consider a perspective they may not have thought about before.
After developing these introspective opinions or perspectives, it becomes our responsibility to put them to action. This can be done in a variety of ways and through a variety of different outlets. At GVSU, we have over 400 student organizations – one of these organizations is bound to have an opportunity for discussion about the topic at hand. Collaborating with others who share the same view as you or who have a different idea is a great way for progression.
The university itself also has opportunity for feedback and expression. This year, a campus climate survey was conducted that looked at the student population's college experience based on responses. Student senate meetings also take place every Thursday where GVSU students and community members are encouraged to share their views and ideas for the university.
In the university setting, it can be incredibly tempting for students to robotically memorize and repeat what their professors and peers are telling them. In fact, it may often be the case that a student will agree with a professor's viewpoint just to ensure a decent grade on an essay.
This should not be the model. College is a unique opportunity in that community members are expected to learn and expand their experiences. Students need to take this opportunity to heart and delve deeper into issues. Rote memorization may pay off in the short term, but a higher education should teach students the most important life skill of all: critical thinking.
As Banner asked of his audience, students should leave GVSU being able to think for themselves. After all, that ability is far more important than any set of facts a Laker can learn in the classroom.