(Editor’s note: in response to Johnny Wagner’s letter to the editor in the Oct. 7 edition of The Concordian.)
Nobody has the inherent right to always feel comfortable. It is the challenges we face that allow us to grow as humans. To argue that these challenges should be removed from college (the very place meant to allow personal development and growth) is a very dangerous idea. I should realize this better than anyone; I came to college as one of the shyest people I know, and to a great extent, I still have this shyness. However, without being forced to participate in class discussions, I would never have developed the basic communication skills that I have today, skills that allow me to develop my ideas and serve the college in a variety of functions.
Early on in my inquiry class, Dr. Steinwand warned us against being “selfish sponges,” people who soak up discussion without ever contributing. Faced with the requirement of participating in class if I wanted my A, I set myself a challenge of contributing at least twice in every discussion-based class. It was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done, and my heart would pound with adrenaline — sometimes, my hands would even start shaking. What if I said something stupid or wrong? What I realized from these requirements, though, is that the world didn’t end when this happened. Life moved on, and the only person who remembered these mistakes was me. Every time that I contributed to the discussion, it was a little less scary than the time before, my anxiety a little more manageable, my confidence a little bit higher.
I can’t think of a single job that doesn’t require communication skills. These music and arts majors that Mr. Wagner mentions have to constantly mingle with patrons and give talks about their work, not to mention participate in a litany of meetings about the production’s budget or the design of their posters for the latest show. Yes, many of these people are (like me) deeply introverted. However, we live in a world that does not cater to introversion, and Concordia must prepare us for the dreaded “real world,” not some utopian fantasy where people are never made to feel uncomfortable or to face their anxieties. It would be ridiculous to allow a student to not write a paper just because it creates a great deal of anxiety for them, and it is similarly ridiculous to allow a student to be a selfish sponge and never contribute to class discussions because it causes anxiety.
It would be a deep disservice on the part of Concordia’s professors to allow students to graduate without basic verbal communication skills. Rather, our professors should continue to look for class contributions as an expected part of participation and work with students individually when they struggle to meet these expectations.
This letter was submitted by Audrey Gunn, contributing writer.