By Sam Bonge, DCI Fellow
Of the 2020-21 fellows for the Deliberative Citizenship Initiative, I am the only natural science major student among the political science and other humanities and social science majors. Which makes sense in a way, as DCI is weighted heavily towards facilitating deliberations and topics which are often political in nature.
However, I wanted to be a Deliberative Citizenship Fellow despite not being interested in political science, or even majoring in the humanities, because I want to improve my understanding of the concrete concepts and issues facing our society from a lens I don’t usually see as a STEM major. I also want to learn to listen to others’ experiences without inserting my own preconceived opinions, both generally as a citizen at a time of high political tension, and as someone who intends to work in the medical field in the future. Such work will require me to work with patients from a wide range of experiences and identities.
One of the main things I’ve learned as a fellow is the importance of bridging divides, and at a minimum, listening to perspectives outside of your own, because otherwise you run the risk of isolating yourself in a bubble or echo chamber. If no one listens to anyone who they don’t already agree with, no one learns anything new, and nothing ever changes – which is why we see Deliberation as one of the first steps to bridging political divide, and enacting change, along with other forms of activism.
One of the big divides I see, outside of politics, is in humanities versus STEM – who’s work is more important, who’s work dismantles and who’s enforces bigoted or harmful systems, who’s work is more difficult. There are harmful stereotypes among STEM students that humanities are less worthwhile, less rigorous. There are harmful stereotypes among humanities students that STEM is less connected to the world outside its academic bubble and is too difficult to understand. I think it’s important to bring the two together to get a complete picture, it’s why I choose to come to a liberal arts school in the first place. I think when we are trying to bridge divides, we should look at not just what people’s beliefs are, what side of the political spectrum they are on, but why they’re there, and where they’re coming from as well.