We Can Do Better: Ears and Eyes Open

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Margo Williams Co-Editor in Chief Sitting in the Learning Commons, I dimmed my computer before typing “Fox News” into the browser. Americans voted for Donald Trump for different reasons in 2016: some share his vision for America, some thought he was a more honest candidate than Hillary Clinton, and others cast their vote to protect their wallets. Trying to understand both sides of issues—not to be confused with supporting or believing in both sides—is a goal I’ve started to focus on. As wonderful as I think Latin is in many respects, our school falters in this pursuit. According to the Pew Research Center, “47% [of consistent conservatives] cite Fox News as their main source for news about government and politics” and “64% of Americans get news on just one site.” The fact that I worry someone will look over my shoulder while I’m on Fox News, then box me into the cluster of political untouchables at Latin is more than problematic, it’s hypocritical. School is, more than anywhere else, a place to learn—to keep our eyes wide open (albeit sometimes after a cup of coffee), our ears available, and our minds malleable. In my opinion, students are simply not old enough, nor informed enough, to freeze out contradicting perspectives. Walking through the halls, it’s not uncommon to overhear political conversations at Latin. If you listen closely, however, you’ll find that the vast majority of these conversations fall into one of two categories: either two people agreeing with one another, or one person vehemently asserting their view, and the other person quietly nodding in resignation disguised as agreement. The fact of the matter is that Chicago is a liberal city. Latin is (and likely forever will be) a majority liberal place. There is nothing wrong with these realities. The problem is that we started equating open minds to conservatism, and conservatism to blind wickedness.  Just today, Fox News posted a story about a “New Pro-Trump Social Media Platform,” and The New York Times posted one titled “Trump Is Beginning To Lose His Grip.” It’s quite possible that neither story is incorrect, but my understanding of contemporary America is going to be very different after having read one article vs. after having read both articles. It’s too easy to become entrenched in the worldviews that coincide with our own (which, frankly, is heavily influenced by our parents’ views.) It’s like having a starter-pack of legos and only arranging them in one way. Wouldn’t it be better to arrange them in many different ways before we decide which looks best?  I am absolutely convinced that, just as a good lawyer anticipates what their opponents will say in the trial, a responsible politically engaged member of society steps back from their own views to understand the opposing position. In both instances it can feel uncomfortable, angering, and futile. The difference, however, is that lawyers are paid to continue working for the side they committed to, even if they start to believe it’s not the right one. As non-lawyers, we can understand opposing arguments for the purpose of better asserting our own, but we also have the freedom to change our minds. We can decide that a different lego arrangement is better, or we can go back to the original.  Regardless of which lego pieces and instructions you’ve begun with, I want to encourage the Latin community to really hear one another—to embrace political differences and not shy away from them. We can only stand to gain from becoming aware of other perspectives in a genuine way. Let’s keep our ears and eyes open.

http://www.journalism.org/2014/10/21/political-polarization-media-habits/
http://www.journalism.org/2016/05/26/news-use-across-social-media-platforms-2016/
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