Where would the world be without the people who dared to step outside of normalcy, to eschew the traditional and the expected to get creative? Well, let’s just say that it would be a pretty stale and boring place if people weren’t willing to engage in getting creative and toss around left-field ideas. That’s the kind of thinking that an alternative liberal arts college is built on, after all. So how do we take steps to ensure that this kind of thinking is not only accepted, but encouraged – not just on campuses – but in every facet of our lives?
Colloquia and Gatherings
While it’s important to sit through lectures during your liberal arts degree and soak up knowledge from wise instructors, it’s also nice to be able to discuss your ideas freely to seek other opinions on the knowledge you’re learning. Though a Greek concept, colloquia – the plural of colloquium, a kind of discussion-based gathering - aren’t just for the ancient Greeks. The process of getting together and having everyone present a topic and foster discussion on it is a great way to get creativity flowing.
However, it’s imperative that you ensure that there are rules in place in these gatherings or colloquia so people feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings. By having a safe place to express your ideas in your small liberal arts college, you’ll become more comfortable doing these things in everyday situations.
If you’re not quite comfortable discussing your ideas in front of people yet, online discussion is a great way to dip your foot in. There are many sites that will let you create message boards or chat boards where you can start discussions. Although these are a good starting point, they can be plagued by trouble-making anonymous users, and can often get wildly off topic and negative. It’s much easier to be mean and discouraging when you’re not there in person.
Arguments Aren’t a Bad Thing
These days when we think of arguments, we tend to think of a “this vs. that” scenario, as if there is a clear right answer, and that someone is arguing the right thing while someone else is arguing the wrong thing. This very much discourages creativity, as people feel less willing to share their thoughts or ideas, lest they be “wrong.”
The truth is that arguments are meant to be back-and-forth discussions that bring up innovative and creative ideas and principles that challenge the other person. In the age of the internet, we’ve come to believe that any statement can be “proven wrong,” but that’s missing the point.
We have to get rid of this notion that an argument must end in a victor. An argument should end with both parties being more enlightened and informed, and perhaps able to conceive of ideas in a different way; arguments aren’t contests, they’re a learning experience.
So don’t immediately try to attack someone on their ideas or statements, even if you don’t agree with them. Try and see it from their point, maybe you’ll actually understand what they mean a little better.
Even if you think you’re right, what’s the point of telling them they’re wrong? There’s still a lot that you can learn from their arguments.