The degradation of dialogue


This past month, the Conservative Diversity Club met for the first time on campus in what was an apparent resurrection of the KO Conservative Club, which was present on campus two years prior.

In a speech at a Tuesday assembly, the leaders of the club laid out the club’s goals, which, as I understood them, were two-fold; establishing a safe space for conservatives at KO to gather and discuss instances where they have experienced stigmatization of conservative ideology by liberal students or teachers and facilitating conversation between people who do not subscribe to or agree with the aforementioned ideology.

Of these two goals, I find later to be not only nobly intended, but necessary to promote dialectic among those who, due to diametrically opposite belief systems, would not typically converse.

Conversations between those who disagree are often degraded to thoughtless arguments in which neither side is listening to the other; they ’re trying to not just prove the other wrong, but make them feel either intellectually or morally inferior.

Now, if this is done unintentionally in the context of civil discourse, that’s a different story, but it has no place being used as ammunition in a verbal gunfight.

With that out of the way, let me address the first goal, which may seem benign, but seemingly contradicts the second goal and, while most likely well intended, promotes an environment in which a common idea rules supreme and is unchallenged and questioned. That was rather dense so allow me to elaborate.

When I first heard the club leaders describing the goal of a space for conservatives to talk about their stigmatization, my mind immediately jumped to the safe spaces that are becoming prevalent on college campuses across the country. These “safe spaces” are places “for individuals who feel marginalized to come together to communicate regarding their experiences with marginalization.” While for the most part, these spaces are created by liberal students and backed by liberal politicians, I feel as though the Conservative club fits the criteria seamlessly.

So what is the problem, you may ask? The problem comes when students, whether it be at the high school or college level, are consistently frequenting an environment in which they are safe, both emotionally and ideologically.

In doing so, those students are shielding themselves from opposing viewpoints which may either offend, upset, or differ from their own. This is not a positive.

In order for students to become firm in their beliefs and convictions, those same beliefs and convictions must be tested. In the real world, there won’t be any safe spaces in which to seek emotional shelter. One must be strong enough in one’s beliefs to defend them, or risk looking foolish.

In order to reach a point where a person has that ability, they must encounter people who say things they don’t like. While it may not be as enjoyable a conversing with those who subscribe to the same ideology, it is essential to creating a multi-dimensional member of society.

Someone who has been exposed to multiple viewpoints, no matter how extreme. This gives that person the advantage of experience when discussing their own viewpoints.

If that same person is only exposed to one viewpoint, their own, they intellectually shallow and emotionally vulnerable.

I urge the leaders of the Conservative Club to prevent this while they have the chance. As I stated earlier, I believe their first goal — promoting dialogue between those with different ideologies — to be admirable.

It would be my hope that they focus on this rather than promote division by perpetuating the problem they hope to solve.