Power Politics

by Christina Noriega '13

Christina Noriega '13I was first introduced to the concept of power politics in an American politics class I took during my first year at Scripps. The professor presented different dimensions of power, including the claim that our system is an open one in which everyone might feel free to voice his or her grievances. The line of reasoning continues that if certain individuals do not choose to participate, it is their own fault.

By the end of the discussion, many in the class realized that while this ideal open system may exist in theory, it does not always exist in fact.

As an example, the professor offered our very own experience as students. An authority figure might insist that a particular space is safe for open dialogue about politics; but this statement may serve only the administration’s own end to present a tolerant front. Merely stating that an arena is open does not necessarily empower a student belonging to a political minority to feel validated to speak. This was an important message for us students to hear, and the fact that it came from a professor made it that much more significant. Certain political views are undoubtedly dominant among the Scripps student body and community. But this does not mean that every last person shares those views. In presenting the example that he did, the professor was actually validating those students of the minority.

This particular class made me think about the source of discord in our nation at large. When a viewpoint is offhandedly dismissed, this same dimension of power comes into play. Dialogue is no longer possible with statements that presume an already perfect understanding of an unshared position, or deny even the possibility that a particular viewpoint maintains a logical basis.

This phenomenon is not unique to a specific geographic region or group of people but, unfortunately, is manifest even in the Scripps community. Nevertheless, critical thinking well-learned is uniformly critical. Though there might still be disagreement at the end of the day, honest exercise of the skills Scripps instills in us will promote a discourse that is constructive, intellectually honest, and prepares us to hear all viewpoints, in theory and in fact.

Noriega is a senior at Scripps College, dual majoring in legal studies and philosophy. She spent the fall semester of her junior year studying Italian language, history, and politics in Rome and intends to pursue a doctorate in political theory.


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