By Guest Writer Elissa Anderson regarding the Forest Grove High School Walkout.
Empathy: The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
As a society, as a community, as people, our ability to empathize is one of the most valuable assets we have. To be able to understand another’s opinion and respect it is one of the greatest things you can do. You don’t have to agree with it but you have to respect it. We should all feel comfortable expressing our views and be encouraged to engage in conversation about them. I love discussing controversial topics. Discussion opens your eyes to views you might never have considered, but only if it’s done in a respectful manner.
At Forest Grove High School our racial and political demographic is extremely diverse and getting to a point where we all share the same views is not likely to happen. Our student body comes from so many different backgrounds and cultures which are amazing, but they also clearly create an environment with a lot of friction between radically different beliefs and opinions.
I don’t have an answer for how to fix this. But I do know that it cannot be fixed by the administration, it cannot be fixed with violence, and frankly it cannot be fixed by one single act like a walk out. We need to actively communicate and work toward a common goal of mutual respect. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and political views, yes, freedom of speech is a right, yes, but as soon as that becomes disrespectful or turns into hate speech that’s where it becomes a problem. The main goal of education systems is to give students an opportunity to learn in a safe environment. Right now there are a lot of students that do not feel safe. And that is not acceptable.
I am a strong advocate of the right to have and voice your opinion but I do not condone derogatory comments or racial slurs. I am the type of person who respects people’s beliefs and would love to engage in a discussion about why you believe what you believe, but only if you in return respect what I believe. I think conversation is the key to understanding. I think we need to learn how to communicate with each other and express our views in a respectful way. And I think we need to actively push ourselves to try to understand opposing views and empathize. That does not mean we all have to agree but if we try to understand why people think a certain way we take a step toward respecting what they think.
There is no definitive solution for the issues our school is facing. But there are things we can all do to work toward a safer more productive educational environment. Talk to each other. Listen to each other. Respect each other. There is no right or wrong opinion. There is not one single correct way to view any situation or issue. Everyone sees things differently so to pass judgement on someone because they do not share the same perspective as you is extremely simpleminded. Putting someone down because they do not believe what you believe is not going to change what they believe. I full heartedly support this movement and think the only way to end racial and political discrimination is to learn how to empathize with and respect others views even if you do not agree.