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Kristi Schultz Broughton Liberal Arts Essay Contest, 2017-2018
Each academic year, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences invites students to participate in our liberal education essay contest. The contest is open to all Butler University undergraduate students, and the submitted essays are judged by a committee of Butler University faculty drawn from various disciplines as well as members of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Board of Visitors. The student who writes the winning essay wins a $1000 prize and is honored at Awards Day towards the end of the Spring semester.
The essay contest is named in honor of Kristi Schultz Broughton. Although not a Butler grad, Kristi was an avid supporter of Butler. Kristi was an elementary school teacher and a Butler Mom whose life exemplified the values of liberal education and a commitment to teaching and learning. The contest is made possible through the generous gift of Kristi's sister Karen Schultz Alter '85 and brother Steven R. Schultz '88.
Literacy and the Liberal Arts in the Age of Boundless Information
Information literacy has become all the more important in our information age and arguably all the more urgent in a period that has seen the phrase “fake news” become a staple of our everyday conversations. To what extent has your liberal arts education enabled you to become more discerning when choosing reliable and informative sources for research projects and when trying to make better sense of significant events that are potentially shaping your life?
The Globalization of Thought
by Lynn Alsatie
Growing up as a child of immigrant parents in the United States means crossing a border every day when you leave your house, and again when you go back home. Throughout my life I’ve lived in limbo, a citizen of two countries, two perspectives, two different ideas of right and wrong. I remember during the summers I spent in the Middle East, chuckling relatives would jokingly ask 5-year-old me, “Which is better, America, or here?” This question perplexed me, and throughout my childhood, I would find myself wondering what the answer really was. From a very young age, I was exposed to not only differing, but often opposing points of view, and being asked to choose between them meant I had to define who was right or better, and for some reason, I simply could not. I think this is what is occurring in the United States right now. We turn on the news and do not know what to believe, because someone is constantly shoving us in one direction or another in this polarization of thought. If both sides call each other liars, is anyone really truthful? Does one truth exist?
As an International Studies major at Butler, the first thing you learn is theory. You must first learn the different perspectives on how people believe countries interact with one another in the world. Exploring multiple theories made it clear to us that there is always more than one way to see the world. This pattern followed me into the rest of my time at Butler. I found that my classes often rewired the pathways in my brain, pushing me to think critically while consuming media, allowing brutal battles of opposing thought to wage war in my mind. I learned that having a critical mind doesn’t mean negating everything one reads, but rather deconstructing the source of the reading, understanding where the author is coming from and why, a process that leads to a much deeper level of understanding.
My classes didn’t only teach me facts; they changed my life. My classes “History of the Middle East and North Africa” and “Islam and Human Rights” helped me understand my own personal history and culture, like why my grandparents and many other Syrians of their age had developed opinions concerning the influence of religion in government. In one class, I decided to write a paper on the Turkish-Kurdish conflict, a topic filled with polarizing and conflicting “facts,” especially once one traveled deep down into its history. Depending on who wrote the version of history I was reading, the names of the “good guys” and “bad guys” were interchangeable. Even when exploring the news about the issue today, I found the Western sources were influenced by the U.S. support of Kurdish groups in northern Syria. Turkish sources argued that the Kurds were terrorists who planted bombs in public areas to scare the Turkish government into listening to their demands. However, Kurdish and American sources cited the oppression of Turkish people from the Turkish government as a reason why this radical violence happened. The disparities I saw from both Western and Turkish sources showed me that neither had the complete truth, but it was in both together that I was able to piece together a whole story. I wouldn’t have been able to understand why the “facts” on both sides were so different if I hadn’t received a liberal arts education that gave me the necessary background of these people.
The experience Butler has given me that most impacted my perception of the world was the Abdul-Rahman Peter Kassig Humanitarian Legacy Award, which I received in 2017. It is an award that was created in the name of a previous Butler student, Peter Kassig, who spent his last years in service risking his life in Syria, until he was captured and killed by ISIS. With the stipend that came with the award, I did a humanitarian workshop at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative. The classroom there was full of humanitarians from all over the world, all bringing their own perspectives on today’s crises. We spent 3 days in the woods, playing out a humanitarian crisis simulation where we were put into NGO teams, and had to create a plan to serve the needs of people in refugee camps set in the imaginary country. During the simulation, we were frequently forced into situations that had no right answer, as is often the case in real life. For example, we were confronted by a news media reporter who asked us why we weren’t crossing the border of the country we were in to see the if the rumors of a genocide on the other side were true. We, as humanitarians, were stuck between crossing and violating the agreement we had with the region, or choosing not to go and being recorded on news media turning a blind eye to genocide. The difficult situations on the ground showed me that even in times of crisis, life is made up of grey areas that must be navigated through with careful thought and exploration of worldviews, because what appears right to one person can be very wrong to another, and some decisions are never free from negative consequences.
The world is made up of different hues of grey, but the news sources we encounter are often very black and white. My liberal arts education has taught me that the diversity in “facts” is something to be explored, and that we should all strive to look at one story from many different angles. News articles from around the globe are very often translated into English, and as citizens it is our responsibility to take advantage of the vast amounts of information we always have at our fingertips. I can happily say that throughout the past 3 years at Butler, I have been traveling the globe without ever leaving my desk, finding a deep reconciliation between the different narratives within me as I see them reflected out in the world.