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  • Writer's pictureDailyhuman

Developing a sense of belonging and culture of trust in higher ed has never been more critical.


It started with a casual comment about “taco trucks” which exploded into a raging debate on "cultural appropriation", race, class, anti-semitism and colonization – all within the span of three minutes. Then one student called another "a racist" and no amount of pleading for "civil discourse" had any effect. At that point, the professor had lost control of the class, and, dragged through the mud on social media, the university would be forced to deal with the fallout for months to come.


Everyone who teaches knows full well the challenges that can arise when you put into a room hordes of teenage-and 20-something strangers raised largely on screens at a time of intense political polarization. They have never been exposed to open-minded, in-person debate, and yet colleges hope that a culture of open debate based on and a free exchange of ideas can thrive. The problem, the professor realizes, is that while students and society have changed dramatically over the past, say, 2000 years, the classroom has stayed pretty much the same. The innovation that has occurred has been largely technological – magic boards and laser projectors and floor-to-ceiling screens. What education needed was a way for students to quickly become comfortable sharing ideas without fear of censure.


The critical nature of belonging and trust in higher education aligns with the broader goal of cultivating connection.


For that to happen there has to be a foundation of trust. The only way for students to learn to trust one another is through communication in the form of meaningful conversations about what they value and cherish in life. But how to accomplish that when each new semester brings with it a new cast and crew and you have precious little time to create an atmosphere conducive to learning. Even more foundational, how can educators help students achieve the proper frame of mind to be open to learning?

It started with a casual comment about “taco trucks” which exploded into a raging debate on "cultural appropriation", race, class, anti-semitism and colonization – all within the span of three minutes. Then one student called another "a racist" and no amount of pleading for "civil discourse" had any effect. At that point, the professor had lost control of the class, and, dragged through the mud on social media, the university would be forced to deal with the fallout for months to come.


Everyone who teaches knows full well the challenges that can arise when you put into a room hordes of teenage-and 20-something strangers raised largely on screens at a time of intense political polarization. They have never been exposed to open-minded, in-person debate, and yet colleges hope that a culture of open debate based on and a free exchange of ideas can thrive. The problem, the professor realizes, is that while students and society have changed dramatically over the past, say, 2000 years, the classroom has stayed pretty much the same. The innovation that has occurred has been largely technological – magic boards and laser projectors and floor-to-ceiling screens. What education needed was a way for students to quickly become comfortable sharing ideas without fear of censure.


For that to happen there has to be a foundation of trust. The only way for students to learn to trust one another is through communication in the form of meaningful conversations about what they value and cherish in life. But how to accomplish that when each new semester brings with it a new cast and crew and you have precious little time to create an atmosphere conducive to learning. Even more foundational, how can educators help students achieve the proper frame of mind to be open to learning?


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