That being said, the advice of this column may be too late for those graduating in less than one month. Underclassmen, this advice is for you.
Think about how you respond to new ideas. Do you truly consider those ideas? Or do you merely scramble to prove that your preexisting ideas are superior?
When confronted with ideas that challenge their views, many people react simply by trying to refute those new ideas. This helps no one. Knee-jerk negative reactions to ideas that do not fit into your worldview hinder your knowledge.
Merely trying to refute an idea with which you disagree or that does not make sense to you is not true engagement with that idea.
When you hear an argument that does not fit into your ideological framework, do not immediately become hostile. Instead, consider its merits. In the end, you may emerge with the same beliefs you had before running into that argument, or you may have an entirely new or modified belief. Either way, your beliefs will be far more comprehensive and thoughtful.
Beliefs are meant to change over time. The human mind is made not of stone, but of flexible material. Use this flexibility and allow your mind to truly flourish. If ideas never changed, we would still believe the earth is flat, that all the gods live on Mount Olympus and that humans could never fly.
Changes in belief do not have to be 180-degree shifts. In fact, the change can make the belief even stronger than before. True strength and integrity in your beliefs come from considering others’ ideas.
Instantly rejecting an opposing idea as wrong often means you will never truly understand that idea. More importantly, however, it means you will never truly understand your own beliefs.
We should rethink the way we enter into discussions with those with whom we disagree. Too often we view disagreements as arguments or fights. Instead, we should see them as discussions and opportunities to grow.
Disagreements are valuable moments in which everyone can grow, and we should embrace them as such. Being open to new ideas enhances the richness of life.
This way of thinking about thinking should be adopted in the classroom, in academic reading, in discussions with your friends, in reading the newspaper, etc. Be open-minded to life, and life will be open-minded to you.
If you leave Fordham — or any other university — holding the same views with which you entered, then you’ve cheated yourself out of a real education.
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