Discussion more proactive than protesting

As the Occupy Wall Street movement continues, spreading across many cities in America, USC students seem to be absent from the action. Two students attempted to initiate an “Occupy USC” movement, which was not met with support. The Daily Trojan recently reported that perhaps students are more politically involved through dialogue than through protests. Regardless of whether or not this is true, students should seek to employ the most effective methods they can to promote their beliefs.

Though protesting succeeds in bringing visibility to issues, discussion has the potential to be a far stronger form of persuasion for USC students.

Esther Cheong | Daily Trojan

Students should emphasize dialogue and discussion to create change because it is educational and establishes a holistic view of an issue.

The strength of a non-violent protest is its ability to bring major attention to an issue. A protest brings an issue into prominence, creating an event out of a long-standing problem.

But protests do not explain things or present the complex angles of issues nearly as well as dialogue does. Engaging in dialogue presents more opportunity for change because it is not a one-way conversation.

Dialogue invites a surveyance of both sides, and this is why it should be favored above protesting.

The ongoing Wall Street protests definitely bring attention to many of the financial problems in the United States, but what is wrong and what exactly should be done are not clearly articulated.

Lists of grievances and demonstrated discontent need to be channeled through institutions and discussed by both sides of the issue to form clear, political goals in order to effect change.

In the face of so many social movements is when dialogue becomes essential, for both the current and future leaders of America as well as those protesting. Discussion is how grievances turn into solutions.

The argument of the protestors is that they are the “99 percent” against Wall Street, but change is unlikely without realizing the reality of conflict is made more understandable through discussion — it’s thereby easier to come to a resolution.

USC students should not forget the importance of the individual when making decisions. Discussion has the potential to engage individuals.

We cannot entirely sever personal biases and preferences from anyone’s decision making, and that is why discussion is necessary to facilitate healthy debate.

Discussion reminds leaders they are dealing with individuals, whether they like it or not, rather than masses of people whose identities are not revealed as easily as they could be through discussion.

Certainly, we would like those who are educated about important issues and those who are personally invested to deal with the issues at hand.

Protestors on Wall Street are perhaps more knowledgeable about the consequences of many corporations’ actions than the leaders of those companies because the actions of companies often affect the constituents more.

In this sense, “education” does not necessarily mean formal education in a learning institution, but rather real knowledge. The “education” of experience that “the 99 percent” have might entail a better understanding of the economy than corporate leaders, and it needs to be communicated to create change.

USC student leaders should actively engage in educating and becoming educated through discussion to become better leaders.

As our school continues to produce leaders with initiatives like USC Leadership Education and Development, it should not fail to emphasize the importance of dialogue.

Recently, USC has been a facilitator of discussion.  The Dornsife “Uncommon Conversations” series held a discussion themed “Science and its Publics: Bridging the Divide.”

Also, the “Smoke-Free Campus Forum” allowed discussion before  the undergraduate student government takes an official position.

Students should be confident in good ideas. Discussion can test whether or not diverse groups’ ideas are good, bad or something in between. It is the duty of the educated individual to always be in pursuit of the truth. Dialogue opens the door for opposing parties to seek this truth together.


Alan Wong is a sophomore majoring in East Asian languages and cultures. His column “Re-Defining USC” runs Tuesdays.

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