By Tara Pope '00
Makes me quite blue.
Before I came to college, my head was full of vague notions of college life but a firm resolve not to alter my beliefs. My family's warnings about "liberal professors" scared me. My freshman year I was alert for any signs my professors were trying to convert me. I knew who I was and what I believed. I was going to college to learn, not to change.
But then came my first summer break. I was talking with friends from high school about college. And as we talked, it became apparent that I, and they, had changed a great deal.
Why had our values and beliefs changed? A lot of my beliefs about society changed simply because I was exposed to new information. College professors often provide different perspectives, but they also provide new facts. I heard about things I didn't know. And I felt betrayed by those people from whom I learned my values.
The ideas I valued up until I came to college were largely shaped by my family, church and school. I had lived in east Tennessee for 18 years, and I never thought that maybe other people didn't share those same values. Especially in my religion classes I was surprised to learn that my values weren't mainstream. I thought the majority of people believed the Bible was the inerrant word of God. My freshman year I went to a Jesus Seminar meeting thinking it was some kind of Bible study. When I heard the speakers talk about how only 17 percent of the New Testament was probably true and that Jesus may have been a party animal, I stood back open-mouthed and waited for the lightning bolts.
While I have continuously been shocked by some of the religious ideas I have heard at TCU, I have also conquered one of my biggest fears about college. I was afraid that my religious views would be challenged and my faith would be weakened. Well, my views certainly have been challenged, but that doesn't necessarily translate into a reduced faith. In fact, my faith has been strengthened.
Whereas my religious beliefs have remained generally immune to change, I am continually surprised at the change in my political beliefs. In middle school, while many girls were enamored with New Kids of the Block, I thought that Dan Quayle was THE MAN. (I still believe the whole potatoe incident was a setup.) I watched him on TV and read his book. In college, however, I read articles about the dangers of excessive individualism and materialism. When I spent a semester at the TCU London
Centre, I was exposed to books that mentioned Marx. My reaction to seeing Marx' name in a textbook for the first time was the intellectual one. I screamed at the book, "I love apple pie! I love America! I don't have to read this crap!" The scariest aspect of the experience though was when I read it and it made sense. For me, Marx' view of the world was more realistic than the one I inherited from my family, church and school.
This clash of the something old and something new led to cognitive dissonance. How was I going to deal with all this information and these new ideas? Dismiss them because they didn't fit into my framework of thinking? Accept them in place of all my previous beliefs? Once in class I found myself repeating what another professor had told me without ever reflecting to see if I actually believed it. It is dangerous but easy to simply trade in old values for new ones.
I am realizing that learning is synthesizing the old and the new, and this process is difficult. By having my beliefs challenged and seeing which ones stand up to scrutiny, I have learned what is really important to me. I have seen that I am open-minded when it comes to new political or economic ideas but pretty firm in my religious convictions. Sometimes I feel like the tension between beliefs is overwhelming‹how can one person like Marxism, feminism, creationism and fundamental Christianity?
And when I feel overwhelmed, I want to go back to not knowing. It would be easier if I could just erase a lot of what I learned, and I think maybe I would be a little happier.
But life isn't about hiding from what might make us uncomfortable. Life is about something old. And something new. And, who knows, maybe learning something better as a result.
Tara Pope is a religion senior from Longview. You may write to her at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Jason Crane is a journalism senior from Shreveport, La. You can write to him at