Acceptance and respect are not synonymous, and it took me a long time to realize that.
I always hear others say “let’s agree to disagree,” but at IMSA, I barely ever see that in practice. I lean more liberal than conservative, which is expected at IMSA, and my beliefs at IMSA have not been seen as problematic. The trouble only comes when someone isn’t liberal; immediately, they’re seen in a completely different, condescending light. It is ironic, then, that while we’re all about “accepting different people and their identities,” we won’t accept other people simply because they believe something else contradictory to our beliefs.
One of IMSA’s pillar ideals is collaboration. Yet, we have people who are genuinely scared to share their thoughts in the classroom because of how they will be received. A student in the English course Gender Studies shared his concern by stating that he feels pressured to stay silent in the class because he might believe an unpopular opinion. “I come off as looking like a terrible person who doesn’t respect everyone else, but I sincerely respect their opinion, I just don’t believe it myself,” he said. Another IMSA senior said, “It’s hard to voice your opinions if the majority will be going against it.” It’s troubling that people in a collaborative school don’t think that they can share their thoughts with the rest of the class without fearing condescension.
At IMSA, there is a union of ideas where everyone is more or less on the same page. Playing it safe, however, never “advanced the human condition.” Playing it safe never broadened perspectives. Playing it safe never really did any good for the overall picture. It temporarily allows us to feel secure, but we will never improve and grow if we’re not challenged. How will we be able to grow if we shun conflicting viewpoints?
While we do seem like a safe and accepting environment because we are supporting one another and their beliefs when they are similar to our own, we end up creating a hostile environment for those who differ in opinions. Instead, what we should be working towards is a respectful environment. While we may not agree with everything, we should be able to politely say that we do not agree and share our thoughts on the subject at hand. Respecting one’s opinion does not mean you have to accept it as your own; it means to recognize that it is someone else’s ideas and that your ideologies might differ.
Our “safe” environment is a facade. A truly safe environment is where everyone would feel comfortable being themselves and sharing their thoughts. As a community, we need to build a strong foundation of respect to welcome different perspectives. I know that none of us start off with malicious intentions or knowing that we want to hurt someone because of their different opinions. I also know that this isn’t who we are at IMSA. We’re about collaboration. We’re about challenge. We’re about differences. We’re about respect. We’re about acceptance–not always accepting the different opinions, but accepting that it’s alright to believe in something else.
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