The task of living is can be difficult as the world in which we spin becomes smaller, time speeds up, and the distance between people and cultures shrink. Now, more than ever, we need to find ways to achieve common ground beyond ideology and narrow value sets.
Rutgers-Newark has one of the most diverse student body populations of any university in the world. In fact, Rutgers-Newark won awards in the past for several years in a row for having the most diverse student body in the nation. The great thing about teaching at Rutgers-Newark is that everyone is a minority.
No one can claim majority rule by culture or ethnicity or regional flavor. That kind of “minority rule” can teach great lessons that cross color lines and cultural obstacles unlike any other place I have previously experienced. One precious thing we are losing in current university experiences is the loss of individuality in favor of the requirement to be politically correct to the point where the world becomes grey and differences and dissent are discouraged so no one will be offended.
When I was a university student, it was assumed you would be offended by some of your campus experiences — and offended is different than being insulted because the intentions are opposite — and I love it when students are “offended” by something that happens in class because it means something inside of them was challenged or broken and their response to the offense was an internal check of values against expectation. Insults are meant to hurt feelings. Offending someone challenges the mind. Great growth blooms from seeds that offend.
I urge my students to make themselves a blank page of paper when they cross the transom of the classroom. I ask, for the period of the class, they let others to “write” on the blank page they have become and allow themselves to be filled up with ideas and thoughts and values that may be foreign to them without judging any of what is being given.
The trick, I tell them, is to allow yourself to “be written on” without trying to censor the writer. Later, after the heat of class is over, sit down in a quiet place alone and “read” what was written in you by reflecting on the imprint of others. I remind them they do not have to agree with what anyone wrote. They do not have to accept or reject their arguments.
All I ask is that they try to understand the why of what the writer needed to mark on the blank of their lives. I try to do the same here in this blog. I don’t judge where people are coming from or why they choose to post a comment. I take what they have to say here with gratitude and honor that, for a moment out of their lives, they chose to mark me with their glorious thoughts and dreams.