From the Editor: Shaping student opinions with facts

Music rang from television screens across the country. The stars shined in bright outfits and wore dazzling  smiles. It was the GRAMMYs, a night dedicated to celebrating the success and impact of various artists in the music industry. But the night was also packed with various political statements, from Beyoncé’s acceptance speech supposedly targeting President Donald Trump to A Tribe Called Quest referring to Trump as “President Agent Orange.”

Many people loved the celebrities’ passion. But many were angered and jarred by entertainers focusing less on entertainment and more on politics.

It seems like, in our modern society, all influencers have to keep their opinions behind tightly closed lips. But the excessive anger expressed when public figures or educators share their opinions makes no sense, especially when adults are the ones sharing this aggravation. If you are a grown adult, you should be able to form your own opinions regardless of whatever statement anyone else makes.

We are living in the midst of an era that has awoken deep political passions and triggered high societal stakes. Everyone across the world is sounding off, including celebrities. There’s no reason to boycott celebrities or write angry posts about why they should keep their opinions private since they’re not politicians.

This changing political climate and the effects it has on our society impact all of us, including singers, actors, dancers, etc. If public figures are using their fame and their platform to share their beliefs, it’s more beneficial than encouraging illegal activity or violence.

However, just because celebrities have a right to publically express their views does not mean anyone should mold their own beliefs around them. It’s immature to look at your favorite singer and become a Republican just because they are. It’s pointless to read an actor’s tweet and then decide you want to be a liberal. Instead, listen to what they say and read their posts but research the topics they discuss. Form your own conclusions.

The same rings true when listening to politicians speak. Most politicians, regardless of conservative or liberal affiliations, purposefully try to sway listeners and readers to agree with them. Their job is to convince you to vote for them, to donate to them or to agree with them. They may do this by discrediting the media, attacking their competitors, encouraging protests, etc.

But when we turn off our televisions and phone screens, we can’t let our belief systems be shaped by the politicians whose jobs are to influence our thinking. We need to do the extra work by reading the news and listening to experts. We need to turn to websites like factcheck.org or politifact.com. We have to stay educated and develop our own opinions.

However, influence is not only exerted on us by these extremely public figures. For many of us, we face the same clashes of beliefs right here in our classrooms. Many professors may feel comfortable sharing their opinions and may even feel compelled to debate students over our own belief systems.

This may not always be comfortable for students, especially if we don’t agree with our educators. However, discussion and debate are an important part of the educational process. If we all surrounded ourselves with people who think the same as we do, there is no available avenue to expand our minds or grow. In addition, we are all adults, meaning we can process the words our educators say and decide for ourselves whether or not we agree.

The same can be said about speakers hosted by Rider or any university. For example, Newt Gingrich, former U.S. Speaker of the House and vocal Republican, will be speaking at Rider next month. To some, that may feel like the university is advocating his beliefs and pushing a more conservative agenda on students.

However, this simply isn’t the case. It is a learning experience. We don’t have to agree with what invited speakers say to get something from their talks, whether it’s a new way of thinking or more firm resolution in our beliefs.

Life will always be brimming with people who want us to think like them. But we are not children. We are individuals who were fortunate enough to receive a higher education. We are all young adults attending an accredited private university. If we let people dictate our opinions and thoughts, then the influencers around us are not the problem — we are.

After all, the most wonderful part of being a fully functioning adult is that we all have our own fully developed minds. Don’t let a celebrity or a professor make up yours for you.

 

The weekly editorial expresses the majority opinion of The Rider News. This week’s editorial was written by the Opinion Editor, Samantha Sawh.

 

Printed in the 2/15/17 issue.

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