Tag: discussion

The Power of Discussion

In May, I spent most of the month working as the substitute teacher in the freshman global studies class at our local high school. My favorite days were the ones when we had discussion prompts and they voiced their opinions.

These days reminded me of the power inherent in discussion. Note, I’m not talking about arguments or one-sided lectures.

Discussion involves a sharing of multiple viewpoints.

I admit, I played the Devil’s Advocate when I could. I took portions of what they offered up in their claims and twisted it to represent the opposite viewpoint in a better light. Sound perspectives from early classes were used to foster discussion in later ones.

And it made me smile. The eight hours of constant interaction generally zap me. I leave the high school feeling like a zombie in need of a long hibernation.

But not on those discussion days. Because the brain-stimulating charge from the discussion kept the fatigue at bay. Powerful and empowering: discussion.

Power of Thought

Some topics are thought-provoking.  Other topics might not be all that interesting until presented in a way that speaks to the place a person lives.

In either case, discussion requires a brain to wake up and get to work.

Believe me when I tell you the youth I interact with in public school don’t do as much thinking as they should. Instead, they’re spoon fed information to regurgitate as test answers.

Not the case for a discussion. Although, I can tell you it was clear when students supplied a regurgitated answer. When asked questions about it or to give a logical path between the question and their answer, they were stumped.

Deep thinking requires analysis and evaluation. Information is input into our brain and when it comes out our mouths it’s been synthesized through our worldview, experiences, values and additional knowledge.

Power of Understanding

One of the biggest powers of discussion is its ability to impart understanding. This isn’t in the form of facts. It’s in the form of mind-expanding.

In a discussion, another side we hadn’t considered is presented. The reasoning behind that viewpoint is explained. A lightbulb goes on.

Even if we aren’t convinced by this shared information, we’re suddenly aware of where the “other side” comes from.

We understand their way of thinking, the process of their logic. Suddenly, there isn’t just a right way and a wrong way. Or even a my way and their way.

True understanding opens the avenue of compassion. This isn’t the road to tolerance or even acceptance. It’s a path that says, “You can get there a different way.” Even if it isn’t the shortest or fastest route, it isn’t wrong either. Just different.

And diversity should be appreciated.

Power to Compromise

Most things in the world don’t have to be one way. This is the biggest outcome to open discussion. Open discussion being that where everyone listens and everyone has input. People talk and their words are heard and considered as valuable.

Compromise is rarely the path of least resistance. Its very nature requires concessions from both sides.

As long as either side sticks with an unbending will, there can be no meeting in the middle.

However, compromise can agree to disagree. We don’t have to think exactly alike to be able to work together for a better world.

To work together, though, we’ll have to put a sock in our pride. We can’t look down our nose at the other side because that breeds contempt and resentment.

If I have the cure for cancer, does it matter if the cancer patient believes the same way I do about politics or religion or even the best way to administer the cure? Won’t it cure them no matter what they believe?

But if I withhold the cure to use as a “lever” to sway those other beliefs, I’m guilty of inhumanity.

What do you see as the powers of open discussion between people with various viewpoints?

Dear Teenager: Your Dress Code isn’t about Sexism – Part 2

This is part three of a series of rants inspired by this lovely meme:

Is this really about treating girls like sex objects?
Is this really about treating girls like sex objects?

Maybe you’re bored with discussing school dress codes and sexism. Believe me, it was tedious to be confronted with it day in and day out when I worked for the school district.

Why can’t the kids just follow the rules?

Because they’re teenagers, and that means they push every boundary, looking for inconsistencies to exploit. It helps them form their own worldview.

And the physiology of this age group is mostly what I’ll address today, as I approach the teenage boy ogling the girl in a dress that reveals more than it conceals.

Dear Teenage Boy-

Do you know why we’re meeting today? No?

Let’s talk about first period. What happened in there that might have prompted me to call you down to the office?

You’re right. She was uncomfortable with you staring at her chest. It was highly inappropriate.

Again, you’re right. She shouldn’t have worn that dress, but not for the reason you said. Let me direct your attention to the Student Handbook. (See the reference here)

The same physiology that makes girls burst into tears over the slightest thing, makes you unable to look away from visual stimulation. In fact, men are visual creatures, attracted by what they see.

That’s the reason we have these rules. We understand that you’re hard-wired to pay attention to what you see. We’re trying to keep you from seeing things that would distract you from learning.

That’s why you’re here at school, you know, to learn. And one thing we want to teach you is to respect other people.

That’s not our job? You’re probably right. But if no one else is going to do it, then we’ll take up the banner.

Back to how to treat people with respect. In the future, what might be the right response in a situation like this?

Now, get back to class. I don’t want to take up too much of the in-class instructional time with this meeting.

Sincerely,

Your School Administrator

******

No shame and no blame placed on either student in these encounters. Facts – the written rules – were presented.

Will that boy stop having sexual thoughts when he sees girls? Doubtful. That’s part of his physiology.

Should he learn to control his reactions? Yes, but that comes with maturity. And isn’t a guaranteed outcome. I’ve had full-grown, gray-haired men give me the heebie-jeebies by staring too long.

Did the school reinforce his misconception that women are sex objects? (Can we say for certain he thinks that?) I don’t think so.

And every school administrator I know addresses these things as quickly as possible so students can get back where they belong. In the classroom.

Plenty of students think school is all about socializing with their friends. That’s why they don’t take the rules seriously. Or show up late to class. Or forget about doing homework.

The real concern that should be spurred by the meme above is that school has become another platform for protest. Is that really in the best interest of those young people who need to learn to read, write and balance their checkbooks?

Yes, this is the end of my lengthy soapbox discussion of dress codes NOT being about sexism.

What else might you say to this young man? To the school?

Thank you for humoring my long-winded diatribe. I hope it was a little bit entertaining or thought-provoking.