Location: Halstead, Kansas, United States

This is my seventh year at Halstead which is also where I live with my wife and my soon to be two year old daughter.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Becky Is Brilliant

In an ongoing discussion about the minimum wage law, Becky brought up this issue that I think deserves some discussion:
Debates are really great for some people, but debates like this one, for me, are really frustrating. I can state what I think all I want, and if I'm successful, maybe I"ll even change someone's mind! But what does that DO really? Addressing issues is very important and being educated on things, but I always feel so empty. What have I actually done to accomplish anything? Jim Wallice came to speak at our school a few weeks ago, and he said something that really struck me. A lot of middle-upper class people like to talk about things like this and feel like our opinion is right, but then we just go back to our comfortable lives and not do anything. To me, there's only so much talking can do for me. I think action should be implemented more in schools, and everywhere! Global warming is a good example ^_^--we can sure talk about it a lot and know a lot about the issue, but that won't stop it from happening. Riding a bike or walking to cut down on gas is just one thing the individual can do. I want to feel the same way about all the issues we debate about--if we feel so strongly about issues, what action can WE take to make things better?

My first thoughts are: learning that people do have other opinions than yours, and then looking at the merits of each side can change peoples' minds or strengthen your own views. Trying to get student's to be independent thinkers is one of major goals as a teacher. I am not sure I totally agree with all of what Jim Wallice says. I think younger people (freshmen and sophomores in high school and some older than that)should listen and talk first and that will hopefully promote learning. From there they can decide if further action in warranted. For instance, a lot of students can be easily persuaded and I think if they were to mobilize into action everytime they heard something then they would never actually achieve anything of substance.

As far as action: I think there could be some major problems if schools try to take a role of promoting specific actions. How can educational institutions promote social agendas that many people (students, tax payers, parents, communities...) would not support. For instance, could a school really promote action on issues of religion, abortion, welfare, prison reform, taxation, immigration, environmental policy, gun control, or elections. I do not think you want to have schools telling a captive audience of impressionable minds what view is right or wrong. So instead, I think the safe and productive route is encouraging intelligent debate in a open and safe forum.

What do you think? What should schools do and encourage?


Blogger Casey Jack said...

I agree with Becky in the idea that debates are pretty much frustrating.
But not only because the end results of debates are typically nonexistant, but because too much of debates often come to a standstill.

There is so much that is up for interpretation. And when we get into the realm of interpretation, we start seeing the stubbornness of others. It is a real chore to get someone to change their opinion on the answer to a math problem, let alone change their views on issues like abortion.

I don't know. I guess I just get aggravated in an argument when no one budges. Standstills make an entire debate seem pointless, since both sides pretty much have made their opinions.

We're all taught to be tolerant of other's opinions (some more so than others) but even then, once someone has made an opinion, they often times become very critical of anyone else's ideas. I try to keep my mind and ideas as open as possible, but it really creeps me out in the middle of debates when I get looked at with some of the nastiest glares I've received outside of Debate.

So, also like Becky, I'm not entirely sure of what I'm trying to say. I guess I just don't like debates. Too much of a negative atmosphere for me, I guess.

8:00 PM  
Blogger Mr. McAlister said...

I would like to take a side(s) in this little debate. I agree with Becky on this issue and agree that actions speak louder than words. As a teacher I feel it necessary to encourage students to act on their beliefs in a positive and constructive manner. There should be a positive outlet for their political/social energy.

I also agree with Mr. Warsnak, debates are a fundamental aspect of a classrooms educational environment. However, guiding students through the process of acting on their beliefs and opinions in a positive manner can be very educational. For example, writing a congressional representative concerning a particular issue the student feels strongly, is that not action? And when they are ready for the big show hold a townhall meeting to discuss a particular issue, or have the students organize a peaceful protest rally. I would think Ghandi or MLK would be useful examples.

10:33 PM  
Blogger Mr. McAlister said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:33 PM  

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