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The Aquilian

How Gonzaga education helped me navigate controversial topics


Like many freshmen, I was a shy kid going into my first year of high school. I’ll never forget the shock when one of my teachers, responding to my question, said, “Just because you can make an argument, it doesn’t mean your argument is valid.” For my first two years of high school, I was terrified to speak up. I didn’t want to become a target for future questions or the ridicule from my classmates. 

In junior year, this all changed. I took an ethics class where we had open discussions on complex issues almost daily. Compromises and disagreements were encouraged, so any points of view that were unfinished or underdeveloped were immediately struck down by other members of the class. Criticism was crucial to the structure of class, so I no longer feared it. In fact, the threat of criticism motivated me to develop more considerate opinions and compelling talking points.

In my experience, “hot button issues” such as politics, gender and international conflicts are rarely discussed at Gonzaga. When topics such as these come up, they are always analyzed in the context of the class. For example, last year in English class, we drew comparisons between Amanda Gorman and other influential black poets such as Gwendolyn Brooks and Langston Hughes. Last year in history, we drew comparisons between the January 6 riots and other acts of dissidence such as the Boston Tea Party. Teachers here do a fantastic job of navigating controversial issues in class. In my experience, teachers usually tackle the issue head on and make class-to-world connections. This strategy not only showed me that my courses do have real-world applications but also introduced me to new and unique points of view that enhanced my perspective on the world.

To me, criticism outside of the classroom was always a greater threat. While walking through the halls or eating lunch, I frequently found myself self-censoring. I never really say what I want to; I a, too scared of being a “bot” or a “sweat.” I think Gonzaga’s social culture, at times, can be extremely toxic, especially for underclassmen. 

I think the best way to alleviate this is by getting involved in extracurriculars. I played sports for Gonzaga, which forced me to meet new people or become friends with people I barely knew. I also used off-campus opportunities such as summer jobs to help develop my social skills. Although these are simple, they have helped me become immensely more confident than I was when I first sat down in a classroom at Gonzaga.

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    Carol CorganMay 20, 2022 at 1:24 pm

    Nice article, Charlie. I hope you join your university’s paper!