In my classes, I give daily writing prompts, which we usually spend about 15 minutes on. Because I am not only trying to teach essay writing but also the critical thinking skills necessary to do so, I occasionally allow the discussion time to run longer than planned.
Sometimes, the students get so passionate about the subjects covered that the whole period flies by before we know it (though this could be due to strategic planning on their parts to avoid classwork).
This past week, the topic at hand was pulled from a New York Times list of topics for essay writing: Does technology make us more alone? In classes with students from generations new and old, opinions varied and were at times surprising.
Two young men, both no older than twenty, carried the discussion in one class for a while. One was passionately in agreement with the idea that technology isolates us, and the other just as passionately against.
In another class, a young man was staunchly against the idea, while an older lady was hugely for it.
“My brother now has 291 friends on Facebook!”
“But are they really his friends?”
Their ideas and points were well thought and intelligently delivered. I could tell that no matter what side they defended, they felt strongly about it.
In the process of discussing this, though, they seemed to be catching on to and displaying the thing I wanted them to learn most: respect.
Respect for each other and respect for the fact that we all have different opinions.
Yes, I occasionally had to step in and soothe some heightened emotions, but for the most part, they listened to each other.
Some even nodded along as people from the other side made valid points.
As an educator, I couldn’t have been prouder of my students or more pleased that they were absorbing the lesson, whether consciously or not.
As a human being, I secretly shed a few tears of joy (later, in the privacy of my own home—shhh, don’t tell anyone!) at the evidence that there is hope for this world, hope for humanity to get along.
We can disagree but still find common ground.
In today’s political atmosphere in America, if you say you are pro-Trump or pro-Clinton, you may get sneers of disdain.
I’ll admit I’m sometimes guilty in both cases.
What we all need to remember, and what my students demonstrated so beautifully, is that just because a person has views opposite of your own ideas does not mean everything that person believes is wrong or that all of his or her actions are deplorable.
A person can believe in abortion or the death penalty or marriage between homosexuals and still be a good person.
A person can oppose all of the above and still be a good person.
Intelligent, rational human beings hold views and beliefs on both ends of the spectrum and remain intelligent and rational.
Believing in something (or not believing in something) does not mean you are stupid or hateful or bigoted or racist.
It just means that *gasp* you have a different opinion than other people.
I can believe abortion is wrong and that the death penalty is just (or the opposite) and still be a moral and educated person.
Bob can be a Bible-thumping, American-flag-waving, gun-toting, Republican and still have logically sound arguments on which to base his beliefs.
Joe can be a tree-hugging, flag-burning, peace-sign-throwing, Democrat and—you guessed it—still have logically sound arguments on which to base his beliefs.
I was on the debate team for several years, and it was one of the best things I ever chose to participate in. Something debate taught me was to look at both sides of an issue and come up with arguments for and against each side.
This left me with an open mind, a bigger heart for the world, and an even bigger faith in that whole “love your neighbor” thing—your gay neighbor, your Muslim neighbor, your KKK neighbor (though that is admittedly difficult), and so on.
Here’s the thing: the more we accept others and love on each other rather than hurl verbal grenades at each other, the better place this world is.
I choose to defuse hate with love.
The more I practice this in my own life, the closer to the God I serve I grow (because I fully believe Jesus died on the cross for my gay neighbor, my Muslim neighbor, my KKK neighbor, etc.).
With the anniversary of 9/11 just past and the extremely heated and polarized election season upon us, we can all stand to learn just what my students have been showing me: we CAN agree with each other on some points, even if we don’t agree on whole issues.
The only way we are going to recognize where we agree, though, is to listen.
Much love, my friends. ❤