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We Need a Generation of Thinkers

Posted: August 7, 2018 — As I consider topics for articles and observe the state of affairs in the U.S., it is difficult to avoid political statements. Of course, political statements are fine as long as we encourage people to think, vote their conscience and get involved – regardless of their party or affiliations. So, that leads me to this article. Whether you are Republican, Democrat or another party; conservative, liberal or moderate; or any other descriptor when it comes to your political beliefs, we can all agree that the current state of affairs in the Unites States is a bit chaotic and severely divided.

Racial tensions are growing. Hate crimes are on the increase. Vandalism of synagogues and mosques has become more common. The use hate language toward people of color, Muslims, members of the LGBTQ population, immigrants and others is heard openly on the streets and in public areas. Political divides are severing friendships and breaking up families. Economic divides are becoming larger and more apparent. This is not the norm for American society – nor should it become the norm.

We have become a nation of people who read a headline or hear a sound bite and form an opinion. We have lost a great deal of interest in researching a topic, reading that actual article under the headline or questioning if something being said by a leader, commentator, celebrity or anyone with a microphone, makes sense. We accept and support opinions that are similar to our own and reject (often with great fervor) opinions that do not fit our narrative. This cannot continue.

We need to develop a generation of thinkers. As a college, Fulton-Montgomery Community College (like all colleges) must strive to teach our students how to analyze what they hear and read to assess its validity as well as its data (if any is used) and to consider counterpoints before drawing any conclusions. We need to demonstrate in classes, in community discussions, in clubs and in our daily interactions that differences of opinion can, and must, be discussed in a civil manner using facts and data not opinion and hyperbole.

It is not the mission of FM, or any college, to teach students to become liberal or conservative. It is the mission of FM, and every college, to teach students to examine both sides of an argument and to expect that assertions are supported with verifiable data and information. We must become a nation of reason, science, debate and compromise if we are going to truly be great again. Throughout history, nations that have abandoned these principles may have risen and flourished for a short period of time but they fell and fell hard thereafter.

Read some of the letters and documents written by our Founding Fathers. These were bright people who were well read and thoughtful. They knew that education, science and the arts were what would make a nation great. They knew that treating people with respect and care is what would make a new nation the best one in the world. They were thinkers. We need more thinking, more education and more caring. We need less reaction and blind acceptance. Only higher education can get us there.

This article was written by Dr. Dustin Swanger, President of Fulton-Montgomery Community College.

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