College students learning more than some adults
Wednesday, October 5, 2016
Rather than some of the outrage and threats to withdraw support for East Carolina University following Saturday’s protest actions by some young members of the university’s marching band, those indignant over it should calm down a bit, act like the adults they are and place the incident in perspective.
A handful of band members chose to kneel during the national anthem prior to a game against the University of Central Florida, apparently following a nationwide trend of silent protests against poor race relations and police-related violence.
The issues of race and police relations are real, complex and generational. They concern every American, including young people — perhaps especially. The first reality to remember is that America is a diverse nation in every imaginable way. Issues like these (and many others) are experienced and processed quite differently among the population. That means there is not one acceptable position and not just one appropriate way to express one’s views.
At a university where young people are being encouraged and taught how to think critically — and let’s hope that’s the case — and take fresh approaches to old problems, they shouldn’t be expected to stifle those same encouragements as urgent political events unfold around them.
Consider the statement released at halftime of Saturday’s football game by Chancellor Cecil Staton:
“As an institution of higher learning, East Carolina respects the rights of our students, staff and faculty to express their personal views,” Staton said. “That is part of the free exchange of ideas on a university campus.”
Those who care about students’ maturation and development into the adult world should at least pay attention to what young people are expressing. They think about, discuss and share their feelings and emotions with each other, then peacefully express their beliefs with the courage to face whatever response their expressions evoke from more powerful and intimidating adults.
ECU students do not set or represent the university’s policies or the political positions of its faculty and alumni. They represent their own beliefs. That’s what they are learning to do; what parents and adults ought to be encouraging them to do.
Community objections to their behaviors, no matter how deep, raise opportunities to sit with them, listen patiently to their views, feel their passion for life and offer them some of the perspective that comes with life experiences.
Every experience a young person has while in college is part of his and her education. What lifelong lessons do adults think they impart through expressions of bitterness, rage and ill will? Is it to think before acting, to be positively motivated, to consider the big picture or be slow to anger and quick to forgive?
College students are skilled learners — not blind learners.