Do you remember when you were 13 and that passionate college student came to your class to discuss gender equality, religious tolerance, cultural relativity and sexual orientation? If your answer is no, then you’re not alone — in fact these topics were never exposed to me until I was finishing high school.
I grew up surrounded by a mostly white Christian demographic, and the first time I was seriously exposed to a culture that was ideologically or ethnically different than my own was when I began studying at CSU.
Like most other CSU students, I have taken classes, attended lectures and involved myself in many conversations which addressed stereotypes regarding gender, religion, sexuality and ethnicity.
These are topics expected to be discussed among students of higher education, after all.
The question I would like to ask though — why are these topics being introduced when we are well on our way to becoming an adult and not sooner?
In the past year some of the most significant conversations I participated in have been with middle school students.
Most recently, I was awarded the opportunity to speak with Cally Stockton’s first period Spanish class at Cache la Poudre Middle School about my experience traveling, learning Arabic and Arab culture. For most of the students, it was the first time hearing about such things, especially from someone not too much older than them. Questions flowed, interest was sparked and a conversation began.
On another occasion, I enjoyed speaking with the youth at The Springs Church, in Colorado Springs, discussing Islam and the false stereotypes surrounding the religion. Even though the presentation in and of itself was simple (defining the basics of Islam and correcting stereotypes) the specific content relative to the culture in which it was addressed, as well as my age and personal experience made the talk more powerful. It was the first time that this Christian youth group was able to talk openly about Islam and ask questions from a knowledgeable source.
For me, discussing Islam, my travels, Arabic and social justice issues is a part of my everyday rhetoric; academically and socially. But for middle school students who lack the exposure of culture, language and religion different than their own, these conversation topics are absolutely necessary and can be life changing.
Since college students haven’t quite transcended into the image of a disheartened, out of date adult, the line of communication between middle school and college students is still open.
As an inspired and informed generation, should it not be our duty to start these conversations with the youth?
When I was 14, I wish I had a college representative come from the GBLQT community to break down how using terms like “gay” or “fag” in a negative connotation is flagrantly hurtful and possibly devastating to a person. Maybe then, it wouldn’t have taken me until I was nineteen to learn the poison imbedded in such terms.
To be honest, when I walked away from my conversation with those young teens, I was not a changed person. I simply spoke about things familiar and dear to my heart, then life went on as usual. Who’s to say, however, that some of those young teens now see Muslims as human beings just like themselves, instead of foreign, hateful terrorists?
Not every conversation we participate in has a monumental effect on us personally, it can, however, hold significance for the other party involved.
With it being Bullying Prevention Awareness month, I want to challenge my fellow students at CSU to take the time to talk with someone in middle school about topics we are blessed to be informed about and exposed to every day on campus. There is one caveat however — let it something you have personal investment in, because those young teens can smell phony from a mile away.
Whether you are a part of a Latina sorority, the GBLQT community or have positive experience with other cultures — we need to share our knowledge and experience with the younger generation.
Editorial Assistant Brooke Lake is a senior international studies major. Her column appears every other Tuesday in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.