Fall 2013

Finding the Middle Ground

A transformation from one-sided views to an open-minded perspective

By Sydney Inks

Raised in a family with established conservative views, Brian Young grew up assuming progressive beliefs were based on the desire for government “freebees.” His view began to change during his senior year of high school when he was introduced to social circumstances which eventually led him to re-evaluate his political and social views. Young came to realize the importance of an education in the liberal arts and sciences throughout his four years at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

“The fundamental mission of a liberal arts education is to ‘liberate’ the mind and open it to experiences, knowledge and skills to be used in being a professional and a contributing, socially minded citizen,” said Chris Cirmo, dean of the College of Letters and Science.

“The Kindling of Thought,” an essay by Brian Young, was one of three essays picked in the annual UW System Liberal Arts Essay Scholarship Competition. Young and two other recipients received $2,000 each to help fund their remaining undergraduate education. The essay demonstrates Young’s transformation from his youth to his shifts from Republican, to Democratic, to a not-so-left but not-so-right political stance. Young explains the relevance of education in his life and how it altered his thinking process in the essay.

Working at a local Green Bay restaurant gave Young a better understanding of the financial struggle some of his co-workers faced every day. It was this orientation to the real world, outside of homeschool, where Young began to realize progressive thinkers did not necessarily ask for handouts from the government; these assistances were aid provided to hardworking citizens who had no other options.

Later, his educational experience at UW-Stevens Point opened Young’s mind to recognize that many arguments have a basis of merit. In time, his political views volleyed from Republican, to Democrat, to in-between, leaving him in the middle and appreciative of different ideas.

“…I can understand and appreciate the arguments on both sides and know that our justices are not necessarily evil and corrupt as I once thought merely because they held different viewpoints. Rather, they assign themselves a different interpretation of the law that has just as much merit and deserves just as much respect as my views do,” Young said in “The Kindling of Thought.”

Throughout his education, Young developed critical thinking skills and an appreciation of differing views. UW-Stevens Point is promoting critical thinking skills and respect for other views in the community with a new project called the Civil Discourse Initiative. The effort examines, refines, endorses, practices and disseminates focal issues in fruitful conversation about controversial topics so people with opposing views can come to an understanding of one another. The premiere Civil Discourse event, “A Civil Discourse on Public Vaccination and the First Amendment,” was held on September 17, 2013, featuring a lively but civil discussion with two physicians from Marshfield Clinic, two representatives from the Libertarian party and a first amendment expert from UW-Madison.

As Young stated, “Issues are not black and white,” and his integration of personal experience and an education in the liberal arts and sciences allowed him to develop his individual views.


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