Whatever Happened To Dorm Room Debates?

By Christina Oehler on January 22, 2015

Why can’t we learn to respectfully debate our beliefs?

The dorm room debate: the uncut, raw and sometimes emotional mental tennis that is a right of passage for college students.

Whether or not it actually takes place in a dorm room, the political and philosophical conversation of young people comparing values and ideals seems to be a vital part to becoming not only a well-versed academic, but also an informed, decision making adult.

Yet it seems that most of my peers have no interest in ever engaging in one of these conversations. I’m not only speaking from my own personal experiences, but it seems that those around me, as well as people from other schools, seem to simply value letter grades and parties over using one another to learn and grow.

Last year, I took a rhetoric class in which we were assigned a research topic, which ranged from abortion policies to oil fracking. I was assigned to research the practice of Scientology. I read about the foundation of the religion and its mythological beginning, which was created by a science fiction writer, L. Ron Hubbard. The creation story includes a non-Earthly being named Xenu who brought people to Earth, and that because of this, humans today still have extra-terrestrial beings in their souls which cause them spiritual harm.

As someone who was raised Roman Catholic, my first reaction was to scoff at this belief, and I thought, how could anyone believe that? Then it hit me: Roman Catholicism is a belief based on a human who is said to be a god-human, who rose from the dead and was able to perform magical tricks such as walking on water and turning water into wine. Who was I to judge another belief system with a radical creation story, when I spent my entire life believing a creation story which was just as seemingly fictional?

This topic really intrigued me, and when I went home that evening, I wanted to share my epiphany with my roommates. Much to my chagrin, after imposing this philosophical conundrum to them, I hardly received even an “interesting” or “cool.” Most didn’t take their eyes off their technology while I was explaining my idea. In their defense, they may have been dealing with some other more relevant issue and found mine to be just a petty  and irrelevant discussion topic.

However, I have now been a college student for over three semesters, and I have yet to find a peer that shares the same interest in exchanging controversial ideas. It seems as though so much of the culture now is to be overly respectful. We are scared to question the beliefs of ourselves and of others, because god forbid we offend someone.

I don’t think it’s entirely the fault of my peers for lacking interest in engaging in said conversation, because our entire lives we have been taught by this new facet of society that is scared to hurt anyone’s feelings.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not encouraging college students to start insulting every belief they disagree with, but I think our society worries so much about staying politically correct that we are missing out on crucial learning moments. I feel like I am constantly tip-toeing around my words, as to never accidentally insult someone, because lately it feels as though we are all walking on eggshells with our words.

Yet another another reason I think dorm room debates are avoided is because our society puts most of its value on small talk and becoming friends with everyone. Constant partying and forming shallow relationships over drinks is what my age group seems to value, and I think it will have consequences in the future.

How will we ever learn who we are and what we stand for, if we never compare and question our thoughts with those around us? We are constantly having information shoved in our faces during lectures and in the viewing of one-sided media, but how often do we question what we are hearing?

If the dorm room debate phenomenon were to come back into the lives of young adults, I think we’d create a generation of more interesting and knowledgable individuals, rather than furthering a society where vapid, shallow relationships are valued.

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