Recently my best friend’s sister visited Wooster and sat in on a class. She observed a discussion where students offered diverse answers to the same question. Ultimately, the professor noted, all of our answers were valid. Later, she jokingly asked, “Why ask so many questions if there’s never a clear answer?”
Sitting in my Ethics class as a sophomore, I too was frustrated by the cryptic answers provided by students. When pursuing topics like stem cell research and war, we rarely responded with a “yes” or “no.” We discussed how these issues were neither black or white, but shades of gray. My initial frustration with ambiguity has transformed into an appreciation for reflecting on the world in this way. I realized that, like the topics and hypothetical situations of which we engaged within the classroom, most issues require a deep understanding and awareness of countless intricacies.
I’ve encountered shades of gray time and time again at Wooster. One of my professors is known for writing two terms on the board and drawing a line to connect them, creating a spectrum for virtually everything. This approach also impacted my I.S. I studied social movements that intend to create an exclusive national identity based on a specific religious tradition. When I began my research, I hated these movements for their ideology. Soon I realized the issue required a great deal of critical understanding, not hate.
Appreciating the many shades of gray has translated into my social life at Wooster, where our community recognizes that people do not belong to clearly defined categories. I’ve developed many strong and unlikely friendships here. I doubt I could have cultivated so many diverse, meaningful relationships at another college, an aspect of Wooster I highly value.
Sure, in high school we learned that nothing was ever black and white, but rather shades of gray. It wasn’t until I came to Wooster that I learned the true value in the statement. We are curious about details, but attentive to the broader picture. I believe our balanced approach to issues is a skill that distinguishes Wooster students from others. This is one reason I’ll soon be so proud to call myself a Wooster alum.
Within a few weeks, I’ll be moving to Montana, working full-time, and entering the “real world.” In the years to come, I am sure I will encounter many people who construct rash judgments and hasty categorizations before consideringthe complex belief systems of others. During our remaining time here and after we graduate, let us as Wooster students and alums impart our value in the shades of gray to others. The world could certainly do with a bit more rationality and understanding.