I teach high school English. My AP curriculum is focused on rhetoric--basically the art of argument. My regular English curriculum is focused on American literature and writing argumentatively in different modes of discourse. My Speech class curriculum includes debate as the primary focus for the second half of the semester. In short, I am teaching my students how to argue well all day long.
Here are the most important lessons:
-Listen. With an open mind, with a kind spirit, with a willingness to understand and find flaws in your own understanding. With a heart to learn. With curiosity, with humility, with respect. With your mouth closed--without interrupting.
-Share with a motivation of explanation rather than persuasion. Because democracy thrives when there is a free and fair exchange of ideas, share yours. When you do, with patience and competence, explain your reasons, supported with evidence and free from fallacies and meanness. Your audience might not agree with you, but they will have learned and grown because of you.
-Be discerning. As you navigate the differing opinions in the world on challenging issues, be careful how you arrive at your own position. Be thoughtful and well-read. Seek unbiased sources as much as possible, and recognize the biases for what they are when they appear. Check everything, consider everything. Seek wise counsel and don’t rush to assumptions. Do not compromise your convictions to align yourself with a wrong idea. Do not be committed to faulty convictions.
-Be compassionate. The most important lesson I teach. This should dictate all of our principles: the well-being of people. The best judgments and opinions come from places of understanding the other person, of empathy, of love. When we come into contact with people different from ourselves, we grow. When we choose to be compassionate, our capacity to hold right ideas increases. Our nation will be better served and far better off if we can raise a generation of people who understand that our worldview must be molded with other people in mind, simply because other people exist. And then, even when we disagree, at the very least we are all trying to get to the same place--what is best for everyone.
Right now, my spirit is wounded, but I have reason to hope in our children. I see in my classroom so much compassion and kindness, so much acceptance and love, so much willingness to work together and move forward. I see in them ideals and principles that have for generations made this country so beautiful: ingenuity, creativity, determination, hard work, competitiveness. And also love, forgiveness, a sense of justice and mercy, genuine concern for other people.
I think we adults could stand to learn a lot from our children.
Welcome to my Blog! I am a wife, mother of three, high school English teacher, and a graduate of the Bluegrass Writers Studio at Eastern Kentucky University. Before anything else, I am a woman of faith.