Multiple viewpoints

By Denebola
Published: November 2008

On a late Monday afternoon, I sat in my history classroom discussing the vice presidential debate from the previous week.

My enthusiasm for the topic dwindled as my classmates belabored the same points. As each person stated his or her view, I wondered to myself, does every person truly share the same viewpoint? Or could some just be too shy to stand up against the crowd?

Lulled by the constant repetition, my thoughts drifted back to the previous week, when I had discussed similar political issues with a group of teens in a week-long government and leadership conference. I remembered the conflict that ensued almost immediately among all of the different perspectives and opinions.

Throughout that week, I recalled raising my eyebrows whenever I disagreed with a comment or smiling whenever someone argued in favor of my belief. I felt a mix of satisfaction and frustration and yet, much to my surprise, I eagerly anticipated the next person’s statement, whether or not it matched my own.

This open exchange characterized my experience in Washington.

In that short time, I felt more engaged and exhilarated by such diverse opinions than on any previous occasion.

Back home, I sat among students who all shared the same perspective, my perspective. Our one-sided conversations left me unsettled not because of disagreement, but because of a lack of disagreement. Instead of embracing my own views, I felt compelled to play the devil’s advocate and represent the beliefs of those who remained otherwise unspoken.

At first when I expressed these opposing views, the class grew quiet with surprise. I could see the questions across each of their faces; does she really believe those things?

Even though I had previously found comfort when around others who agreed with my opinions, I discovered that I had learned much more about my own beliefs by talking with those who challenged my thinking.

In that classroom, I longed for those who did not come from the same place, did not believe in the same principles, and did not hold the same opinions as I.

I realized that in only that one week, I had developed a new sense of comfort with and thirst for an environment that fosters several points of view.

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