The College at its Best
September 30, 2014
This fall, Dalton State is hosting a series of events focusing on the timely topic of inequality in America. Our country was founded on the principle that all men are created equal and as such are entitled to the same unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But does that principle hold true today? Did it ever?
The Occupy movement of 2011 vividly called to our attention the reality of economic inequality in America. Hardworking capitalists who just decades before were admired for their business success, were suddenly vilified as “One Percenters” hoarding much of the nation’s wealth.
Education reformers for years have talked about “narrowing the achievement gap” between poor children and rich children, arguing that a child’s prospects for success in life can be inextricably tied to where they live and go to school.
These topics stir strong feelings in Americans of all stripes, and I’m so pleased we’re meeting them headlong in our series. Our own community struggles daily with these very issues; this is the right conversation at the right time.
To me, this is the College at its best.
We can convene impassioned voices and invite spirited debate, but do so in ways that are civil and respectful, and in so doing, expand the body of knowledge. We may not be able to change minds, but we may succeed in shaping opinion by providing perspective, examination, and analysis.
In his annual Constitution Day lecture, Matt Hipps, assistant professor of political science, examined various ways in which inequality manifests itself in America and urged audience members not to perpetuate language and stereotypes that create division between people.
In prescribing his own remedy to level the playing field in America, Matt encouraged audience members to do three things: to have conversations about inequality, to cultivate empathy and compassion in themselves, and to do something positive to change the world.
At Dalton State, we’re taking that message to heart. In the coming weeks and months we’ll host public forums in which we’ll examine topics including education inequality, Common Core, racial inequality, and inequality based on gender differences and sexual orientation. The topics will be explored sensitively and intelligently and we welcome all who have an interest to join in our civil discourse.
The notion of inequality can be abstract if you only think about it in terms of unbalanced scales, pie charts, and bar graphs. It becomes easier to cultivate empathy and compassion when you consider ways in which inequality manifests itself in the lives of our neighbors – the child who is hungry on the weekends because there’s no free school lunch; the retiree who has to decide between filling a prescription and buying groceries; the mom who can’t buy her child the Christmas present he wants even though he’s been a very good boy. As Matt Hipps says, “Fixing inequality starts with accepting the fact that it exists and demanding change.”
Finally, there is the challenge to “do something positive to change the world.” There are a million different ways in our own community to do something to help close gaps. Dalton State is just beginning to look at ways we can engage our faculty, staff, and students to make a positive and sustainable change. But first we have to have the conversation. We invite you to join us.