Does conformity halt progress?
Yes! In my opinion, accepting tradition and following the actions of others can be destructive to a person, and to society, for many reasons. First, it is important to focus on how it is destructive to oneself. Many people have a fear of speaking against the majority and taking a stance that seems to go against the majority’s thoughts. For example, even in a simple academic setting, withholding your opinion can have consequences. Let’s say that everyone in a classroom agrees on a specific interpretation of a theory that you do not accept; yet you refuse to voice your opinion and conform to the other interpretation. Not only will the students suffer by missing out on thorough debate, but also there is a chance that YOU will suffer because your interpretation may, in fact, be more accurate. This reasoning applies to situations on a larger scale as well.
The second aspect of harm that occurs due to the failure of expressing your opinions is the harm that it causes society. Mill makes an argument that the
“peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race.”
In one instance, it can harm the human race because if your opinion is right yet you refuse to speak up, society will remain ignorant. Furhter, even if your opinion is wrong, the argument will strengthen the current status quo and there will be a “livelier impression of truth.” I am well aware of the hesitations one may have of speaking out against a united front. But we are at the University of Michigan, where diversity exists at its finest. There will undoubtedly be someone who agrees with you, or even better, someone who learns from what you have to say. Questioning traditions is the only way to make progress, so what would our country be if all its citizens feared taking a stance. It is easy to make excuses for holding back, but why not try to take Mill’s advice, while it is fresh in our minds, and stand up for our beliefs, even if they go against tradition.