Dalton State: Part Of The Solution

One of the seven habits of highly effective people cited by Stephen R. Covey is “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

That idea has been on my mind a lot in the last year, but especially in light of the recent events in Washington, D.C.

We all have strong feelings about what we are seeing and experiencing these days in our country, and we want to express those feelings. The proliferation of social media and other internet communications gives us all a platform to have our voices heard. It’s easy to find individuals and groups who think like us. It’s much more difficult to listen to and understand those who have different perspectives.

If we are all focused only on our own beliefs and experiences, we will never resolve the issues that divide us. Finding solutions begins with listening to the perspectives of others, even those we don’t agree with. Listening increases empathy and understanding that lead us to solutions.

At Dalton State, we are committed to providing an environment where our students are exposed to various viewpoints along with the historical, economic and social contexts of issues. Our faculty, staff and administrators do not tell students WHAT to think about complex issues and problems, but we try to help them learn HOW to analyze issues and explore the relevant background information. We also try to introduce students to perspectives that may be different from their own. Again, we are not advocating for one position or another, but we believe it is helpful for students to think more deeply about why they have the beliefs they do. Considering alternative points of view can help create a richer understanding of a topic and help students grow.

More importantly, we teach and demonstrate to our students how to have civil discourse on complex issues, even those where feelings may be held very strongly and may contradict the opinions of others. This is a critical role for a college such as Dalton State to fill.

Of course, there are some things that go against our values as citizens of this nation and go against the values of most humans, including murder and genocide, for example. We don’t generally debate these issues. The insurrection we witnessed earlier this month is not something Dalton State would ever condone. We can, nevertheless, explore the factors that caused such an event to occur and the beliefs and values of those who participated in the invasion on Capitol Hill. We can also explore the social justice issues that caused sometimes violent protests in the previous months, as well as the public health, economic and political challenges of the viral pandemic.

Our country is facing significant challenges on multiple fronts. It’s a complex time, and there are no simple solutions. A college campus can provide students a safe environment to explore these complexities.

Dalton State is developing leaders who will engage in the hard work of implementing solutions for these and other matters in the years to come. Along with preparing our students to be productive employees, we want our graduates to carry with them life skills that will make them better parents, neighbors, sons, daughters, spouses and contributors to society.

As we begin a new calendar year and a new semester at Dalton State, I reflect on the ordeals of the past nine months and return to the same conclusion I have held for many years. Whatever the problems, education must be part of the solution. At a time when people are questioning the validity of science, of higher education, of those in authority, I am more confident than ever of the need for a quality education in our society. Dalton State College is committed to being part of the solution to the problems of our community, nation and world.