“It’s harder than it looks.” The story the college student is told about nearly every venture they begin. “Be careful,” veterans say, warning freshmen not to become overcommitted, telling friends in classes they have completed not to wait until the last minute on a term paper and all the while hinting at a secret to success they may not be sharing.
Simplistic as the concept might be, writing this year’s “It’s Politically Correct” column was often harder than it looks.
As a senior in college with majors in political science and economics, I came to the Torch with no journalistic experience and an ingrained knack for writing academically. Adapting to a different style can be harder than it looks. I’ll admit I may yet be a ways from balancing writing at the AP-prescribed fifth-grade level and sounding adequately knowledgeable. With an affinity for objectivity bred by academic composition, these pieces often come out more statistics-driven or “newsy” than the average reader wants in an opinion piece.
To those of you who stuck with the column anyway, thank you. This column was for you, those truly interested in substance and wanting to look beyond the shallow rhetoric that consumes the political sphere.
As president of the College Republicans, I can tell you for certain, recruitment is not as easy as it looks. College students aren’t into labels. In an environment where even being a hipster is too mainstream, getting a liberal arts student to commit to a club with a political affiliation is about as easy as convincing Al Capone he should file his taxes. The good news? College students love to be informed and, with a presidential election fast approaching, politics is the hot topic of the year.
Upon entering the 2015-2016 academic year, Hunter and I chose to resurrect the “That’s Politically Correct” column to inform the campus electorate, not just on who was running for president, but on party platform and specific policy topics so that students with all manner of political expertise could educate themselves on the issues before they cast their vote. I hope we have succeeded in that.
Of course, my hope is to have swayed as many readers to my side of any given issue as possible. This too is more difficult than it appears. Throughout the year, I have done my best to do more than use the same tired talking points. I’ve learned that gets you nowhere. Presidential debates are rarely more than political posturing.
While small quabbles can be entertaining, substance can be sexy too. Valpo students respect rhetorical skill, but relish knowledge. The goal was never to wow my readers, but to woo them. In that regard, Hunter and I may not seem so successful. Our respective organizational membership has increased, but in no way dramatically. What we have done is provided a pathway to greater understanding of current political realities and the political self. Persuading just one reader to follow that path is a success, but where that path has led me has been truly enlightening.
The beauty of writing for the Torch and being on Valpo’s campus has been how presenting my opinions publicly has led to deep, productive discussion with students from all walks of life and political persuasions about the topics most of us have learned to avoid. Blame it on our liberal arts background, our Christian heritage, or our high-achieving, truth-seeking culture, but the outcome has surpassed my most fanciful expectations.
Even when my passion gets the better of me and the words become a shade satirical or hint at hyperbole, writing these articles has given me a better perspective of a way forward for our nation. Although worldviews and policy prescriptions may differ, issue after hyper-partisan issue are tied together by the common threads of national pride, human compassion and, on the part of those I have been blessed to meet, a real concern for doing the right thing. These are not Republican or Democratic values, they are American values.
I am convinced our generation can heal this nation. Informed, confident and focused on the goals that unite us, we can alleviate poverty, provide top-notch education, stand up for the sanctity of diverse lives domestically and abroad and adequately protect our families, friends and fundamental freedoms “for ourselves and our posterity.”
Perhaps the way to make more College Republicans and College Democrats is to focus first on educating College Americans. The road is hard, and it may be harder than it looks, but isn’t it worth it?
The views expressed are those of the writer and not necessarily those of The Torch. Contact Jacob Schlosser at email@example.com.