Is there a Discourse in the real world?
For the majority of us here on the Hill, there will be no other time in our lives when we will live in an environment where there is the possibility for such vibrant and inclusive discourse among the community. Here at Colby, we are afforded many opportunities: discussion panels, classes, lectures and, yes, even the Civil Discourse.
These are all chances to speak our minds about issues which trouble us and that we would like to see corrected. We also have an incredible power to reach out and communicate with the vast majority of the members of the community we live in. We can to come together as an entire community and discuss race, gender, politics, sexuality, socioeconomics and other issues. While it is more than true that large segments of the student body do not take full advantage of these opportunities, the ability is still there for even one person to voice their opinion with the entire community here at Colby.
This, in my opinion, is an incredibly good thing. It is only through the type of activism and discourse seen here on Mayflower Hill that people are better educated about the diversities which surround them, and then societal barriers are brought down. It is important in any community that there is vibrant public discourse so that divisive and hurtful issues can be collectively addressed and resolved. For better or worse, however, the environment which exists here at Colby, where there is a free flowing discourse among the entire immediate community, is not the reality in the outside world.
Take for example: the Civil Discourse, which allows any student to voice their opinions to every member of the community. Now I realize that some people have un-subscribed from the Discourse, and I am not so naïve as to think that every person reads the Discourse every day. However my point is that the opportunity exists, and generally it has enough readership to create chatter around campus when a particularly inflammatory issue arises. However, there is no Civil Discourse (or at least that I am aware of) outside of Colby in the “real world.” After graduation, if I am living in New York City, I can’t send an email to all New Yorkers to discuss an issue that I feel needs to be addressed by the community.
The Discourse is only one example; outside of Colby College there are significantly fewer opportunities to easily and effectively reach out to members of one’s community and foster discourse. This being said, it is also not impossible to communicate with one’s community outside of a college setting, as there are organizations such as homeowners associations, PTA’s and the like which facilitate this kind of discussion. What I am trying to say is that the opportunity to raise issues and mold opinions among all members of any given community is much more difficult in the real world outside of Colby.
This reality gives me mixed emotions. On the one hand it frustrates me that here on The Hill we are being conditioned to live in an environment which is so drastically different from much of the outside world. I worry that we as students are growing accustomed to unrealistic expectations about the ability to create discourse and shape opinions in our surrounding environment. I worry that we are being taught an overly utopic world view here at Colby College.
On the other hand however, these misgivings are outweighed by what I see as the possible benefits of the environment here at Colby. If the sort of community I have been discussing, a community where there is vibrant and educational civil discourse with the intent of breaking down social barriers and correcting ignorance cannot be created on a small New England liberal arts campus, than where can be created?
I see it as the duty of our colleges and universities to offer students an environment to voice their opinions with all members of their community, and to strive to create a more utopian society. Colby College and other institutions like it offer their students a unique opportunity to effect serious change in their immediate community, an opportunity which is not nearly as available in the real world. I believe this to be important, because while it may not be indicative of the real world, it is a powerful opportunity.
In my view, our responsibility as students, being given this incredible opportunity to attend to a school such as Colby College, is to take the environment we have learned here and bring it to the less forgiving outside world. We must always remember that outside the confines of our campus the world is for the most part nowhere near as accommodating or accepting of many of the values we have learned here. That being said, we must take our experience at Colby out into the real world, and each do our small part to foster the kind of discourse and discussion we have experienced here on the Hill.