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Student blog: We must challenge what has been established and learn to listen

Author: Service Learning Prefect, Hannah of Year 11  

 31 Oct 2016

Since I was little I have been somewhat of a social justice crusader, whether this be on topics of politics, LGBT issues, gender, race, religion, human rights or my belief in the fundamental right for me to wear my vest in assembly. I am willing to fight for what I think is right. Admittedly, I enjoy a good argument, and can often be ‘overly opinionated’ in my views.

A few months ago now I found myself in conversation with a boy. We had got into a discussion about sexuality and the acceptance of such in our respective schools and our personal standpoints on the matter. He told me that sexuality was a topic that was totally avoided at his school, reaffirming what I had heard from others, such as teachers preaching anti-gay beliefs, intolerance towards boys taking other boys to their Year 12 formals, as well as a couple being asked to leave the event itself. On top of this I had recently heard of a mass ‘coming out’ of 20 boys after their graduation in 2015.

We came to a point in this conversation where our personal views came into it, with the boy stating that he would in honesty have some initial discomfort if one of his friends were to come out as gay and his general unease towards homosexuality. After preparing myself to scream at this boy for being in my first opinion; an absolute twit, we stopped and found ourselves in a discussion.

The conversation progressed and we came to a point where he told me the reason for his views, largely he said had been influenced by his upbringing, and how hard he would find it to throw 17 years of his life, and the beliefs he has held and been taught in this time out the window. Riding atop my moral high-horse at this point I told him that he should be able to follow what he thinks is right, not what is established. To this he said, and I directly quote: “but established things are easy”.

After restraining myself taking my copy of Gloria Steinem’s My Life on the Road and hitting him over the head with it, it came to me that from the mouth of a 17-year-old boy, possibly the most dangerous and destructive, yet the most truthful phrase in the human language. We are often trapped inside the longing to stick to what we know and have been taught, and often do so blindly in order to maintain a sense of belonging or comfort.

Our desire for stability and conformity in inherent within us and is threatened by notions of change that may disrupt our accepted ways of life, even if this change is what is right. If we were never to challenge establishment where would we be? Women without the right to vote, to work, or own property? Slavery? Religious persecution? Racial segregation? Homosexuality maintaining to be punishable by law? We need to be prepared to be the uprising, to risk losing our comforts for what is right.

Especially as young adults in a world that is experiencing as much change as, it is our obligation to challenge what has been established and to develop and form our own opinions, and our own identities. To stand our ground and be the game changers.

Although, alongside being willing to challenge we too have to be willing to listen, to educate, and to be educated on differing views and standpoints. Not necessarily to agree, but to be able to actually listen. We must acknowledge the importance of being respectful while being able to stand our ground, letting the views of others deepen, shape, and inform our stance on specific issues. Ultimately, allowing us to really “change the game”.

We need to learn not to raise our voice, but to raise our words. Words that can only be raised by being able to respond to what you are being opposed with, rather than just being the old man yelling at a cloud. Our discussion moved on and despite our differences I am thankful for this; he was willing to listen to what I had to say.