October 8, 2009

Arguing, Continued

I'd like to follow up on Dennis's post regarding arguing. The word "argue" is itself very interesting. Derived from Middle English arguen which is from Middle French arguer meaning to accuse or to reason. It seems like in current culture we're living up to the accusation aspect and losing the reasoning. I too believe that being able to take a stance and justify that stance with reason and logic is a critical skill that we all need. When one is accused (of evil intent, of stupidity, etc.) for that stance, however, the discussion quickly moves from one with a purpose of clarifying and understanding to something very personal. The challenge, especially when we feel strongly about issues, is to keep the discussion from becoming an attack on personal identities. How do we maintain our passion and keep an open mind toward learning--at least understanding perspectives that are not our own? The lack of interest in understanding issues deeply is very troubling to me. Instead, I see sides accusing each other in very personal ways.


  1. Obviously Cori and the President are preaching the same message. The questionw are what are we doing in schools to prepare people to engage in civil discourse -- and what are we doing in teacher preparaton to prepare teachers to develop students who are able to engage in such discourse?

  2. My first response . . . not enough; we are not permitting or encouraging civil discourse/discourse skills in our own classrooms. Perhaps in part, as teachers, we are "afraid" they might argue with us (instead of with the other students). On the other, I also sometimes worry that the curriculum we are promoting/teaching in our teacher education program sets them up for problems when they move out into school settings . . . where discourse is even more rare. In part, I also am very aware of the fact that I do not know enough about how to teach civil discourse. What is/are the skills and knowledge bases to foster in our education majors?

  3. A source that is worth exploring is Roger Soder's "The Language of Leadership" published in 2001. It has good suggestions and references to other sources that could help build an emphasis on civil discourse in a program.