Individuality and Accountability: Inseparable qualities for all students and educators and the challenge that exists given the current environments of most of our classrooms. Oh yeah…also a story about some guys and trees.

Posted: June 2, 2022 in Articles, Insights, Servant Warrior Radio Message
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How can academia tout critical thinking, individuality, tolerance, etc…when students are are not allowed to be who they are and teachers do not know how to be genuine, true to their convictions, while also fostering a classroom environment conducive to critical thinking, civil discourse, questions and answers, the exchanging of ideas – both agreed upon and disagreed upon, and allowing the students the chance to learn and establish their own perspectives, stances, and opinions?

As I will be sharing more in subsequent posts, articles, and on Servant Warrior™ Radio in the coming weeks and months, teachers have to consider the “why’s” at varied perspectives and students have to consider them as peers.

But, here is where the harsh reality of my points take front and center. What happens when teachers get tough questions like should abortion be legal and whether Roe v Wade is Constitutional? What about questions surrounding gun control? What about fossil fuels vs alternative energy sources? Immigration reform and border security? How about universal healthcare vs private healthcare? The list can go on and on. To pretend that these questions are not going to be asked is very similar to an old military saying about putting your head in the sand during a firefight. You know what happens? You get shot in the south end of your north bound direction.

We, as teachers, have to be ready for these questions. And, we have to have honest, purposeful, and objective conversations about them as we are the authority figures and can have a tremendous influence on a student’s beliefs. If we want them to and are challenging them to think critically, we have to make sure we understand and are clear about the context of the answer, the discussion, and absolutely refer to and consider my 3P’s of Information: Position, Purpose, and Perspective. All of these issues have significant ideological beliefs around them and can bring, dare I say, spirited debate and discussion.

Unfortunately, I do not think many teachers are truly considering, if these questions are not beings asked in their classrooms…WHY? Why are students not asking these questions? I can assure you they are hearing about them, inquiring about them, and talking about them elsewhere. Some of the reasons I believe are that students afraid of backlash or attacks if the question is controversial. They are afraid of looking stupid, inept, or being ridiculed by classmates. They are afraid of being asked follow-up questions about the issue and not be able to discuss or answer intelligently. And, this is likely one of the most impactful reasons, students are afraid that if they believe differently than the teacher, there could potentially be reprisal or even alienation directed at the student by the teacher as well as other students. I am just being honest.

Students learn from teachers. Teachers are human beings, with beliefs and perspectives. Students interact with other students who are also human beings…human beings with perspectives. The idea that teachers must be void of who they are or have no personality or perspective in the classroom only shows that too many teachers are incapable of creating environments where their ideologies do not get on the way of learning but shows students, the future generations, that people can and will disagree but that teaching and learning can happen in spite of differing opinions.

If we want civil, effective discourse in the public square, we have to be allowed to have civil and effective discourse in the public classrooms.  Otherwise, how will students learn how to engage in civilized, effective, and intelligent discourse if it is not modeled and fostered in an environment that will ensure all perspectives are treated with importance but none more than the other?

Society, as driven predominantly by social media, is wholly incapable of teaching generations of students how to have a conversation with someone they do not agree with or to even acknowledge, with any level of consideration or respect, that someone may have a different opinion than their own. The ability to agree to disagree has been lost for some time. Cancelation, verbal assaults, censorship, character assassinations, etc…have become more commonplace than simply reaching the point where neither side will change their positions and both walking away…even shaking hands. We are emphatic and insistent that those who don’t share our views must…at all cost.

The classroom is where tough questions should be asked. If a teacher is prepared to answer tough questions because they have set parameters, expectations, guidelines, and discussion guard rails, students get a taste of what life is like to disagree without going to war or, in today’s terminology, “canceling the other”. We have lost the ability to disagree and be okay with it, especially on social media. Intellectual courage is becoming more and more nonexistent. If you are curious about intellectual courage, stay tuned and check out more blog posts and episodes of Servant Warrior™ Radio.

If I may, let me tell a story about a couple of men and some trees…

One day, a man was in a grove sitting and reading beneath a large tree when he heard another man standing beneath another tree, screaming at it to uproot itself and move to another location. The first man found this entertaining, then intriguing, and then a bit irritating. But, he continued to watch.

The screaming continued but tree did not move. This only infuriated the man. He began to scream louder, cursing and insulting the tree…and all of the other trees that were within earshot of his verbal tirade.

The man got up from his seat and walked over to the other. “Sir”, he said, “why are you screaming at the tree? You know that no matter how hard you scream at or insult the tree, it will not move.”

“Who are you?! ” asked the irate gentleman. “Who are you to tell me what I can and cannot say? Who are YOU to tell ME anything?! I can say whatever I want! And, what I want is for this tree to move! I want it over there!”

The man walked back over to his tree, sat down, and pondered his options. He had a decision to make. He could go back over to other man and argue with him of the ridiculousness of his actions and verbal assault on the tree. He knew he was right and that that tree was not moving. He could sit, watch and listen to the man continue his tirade against the tree. He knew doing this, while fun for a time, would take him away from his own book. He also knew the tirade would eventually impact him and could bring him to the point of going back over and engaging the other man. Or the man, knowing his propensity for engagement, could find another tree in a grove where he could read and where people do not scream at trees to uproot and move.

He gave the matter great thought and decided to…

I will leave it there. It is certainly something to consider when observing others and their ideological perspectives, opinions, and actions.

Until next time, keep it real.

Have any comments or questions? Email them to comments@servantwarriorradio.com

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