My good friend Sam and I constantly find ourselves talking to one another. Strange, I know, but let me just say that when she and I talk it typically isn’t one of those “hey, how are you doing?” conversations. It is one of those long, deep and terribly in-depth conversations going to the core of some issue. A conversation that begins when she walks into my room at 9:38 p.m. and ends when she leaves at 12:44 a.m. Obviously, these conversations go on way past my bedtime but I truly and deeply enjoy them because the spirit of discussion is a dead art in our generation.
As a political science major, I honestly thought I would get into a lot more debates than I have during my time here.
In my constitutional law class, my professor — a man I greatly admire and deeply respect — asked a simple question which elicited a minute response. We were talking about the Home Building and Loan Association v. Blaisdell (1934) case, in which the Court ruled on a Minnesota law that alters private contracts between banks that lend money to people and the people that take the money. He simply asked whether we agreed with the Court’s ruling.
It was not an immensely complex question by any means and in fact in my opinion it was a relatively simple question. Only three people dared to answer the question and the first two agreed with the Court. A rather dashing man — in reality a total and complete nerd who sits in the front of the class, by which I mean myself — raised his hand and said, “I disagree.”
The professor looked at me and asked me why. After I laid out my argument a few students went back and forth on the issue but the debate wasn’t especially thought provoking or moving. It didn’t engage me as a student. The professor then freely admitted the discussion was doomed because it was Friday, but that is no excuse.
Sam and I managed to discuss some of the most complex and deep issues while not only respecting each other but also in essence learning from each other. That is why I truly love our talks because not only do I get to see the passion in her eyes but I get to watch her try to beat me — and often succeed — with her infallible logic and impeccable wit. I should mention she and I have diametrically opposed political beliefs, and coincidentally enough the issues that I cross over to the left she crosses over to the right.
We could not be more different if we tried but that is what I love about her. The point in life is not to fill your Rolodex (or contact list, for our generation) with people who disagree with you, and not just disagree but are not afraid to tell you exactly how and why you are wrong. If you spend your entire time discussing a topic with someone who agrees with you, you will learn nothing. It is disagreement that sparks challenge, and challenge that leads to true learning.
I don’t know if Sam enjoys the conversations as much as I do, but I love them enough for us both. She probably doesn’t know how much they mean to me but she forces me to elevate my game and she lets me learn how she sees it.
Our conversations give me insight into other ways to approach an issue. When you see different points of view and you get to discuss and analyze and explain your beliefs, it leads to growth. Diversity in thought is crucial to growing as a person because it is easy to be around people that agree with you but the challenge lies in the people that disagree with you.
So back to my constitutional law class. My professor appreciated me stepping out on the edge, but it is questioning that forces people to truly think about the issue at hand. I firmly believe the best form of education comes from the constant questioning of the issue at hand.
Asking someone “why” is a natural thing to do, but when you demand it from someone and force him or her to think, they are often baffled. Independent thought requires a level of understanding that is crucial to true learning.