So many news stories are highlighting for me these days that few Americans can handle truth. I know that much of that stems from not believing truth objectively exists, but we have to be able to speak “things” to one another. Anything that can in anyway be deemed “offensive” or perhaps in clearer words, compel one person to change due to another’s words, is automatically considered off limits in the modern rhetoric. This is unsustainable. So how does this relate to education?
Students are being taught these poor habits of communication. Or perhaps rather they suffer from not being taught the right habits of communication, which include how to use discretion (our modern Twitter infested lives want all our thoughts in as brief a form as possible, with no filter), how to choose our words winsomely (volume and shock seem the most popular rhetorical tools today), how to use logic, and the whole bundle of issues around the use of authority when we speak.
I can’t possibly unpack all that now. But note that our lack of ability in this regard must be placed directly on the shoulders of those teaching the young to use words. Soon the best choice will be to say nothing at all. I think we see this already with the proliferation of slang/acronymic letters in our social media: omg, lol, idk, etc., and the vapid use of emoticons to help steer the meaning of our foreshortened speech. Clear expression has been replaced by self expression, to our loss. Logic must give way to emotional intelligence. Can’t we have both?
I teach my students to be willing to have their ideas examined by their peers and teacher. It is my goal that such is gracious, kind, safe, and careful. When it is not, we have the Christian grace of forgiveness to mend and repair. But if we are to think, and do so out loud, we must have skin thick enough to deal with our own limitations, error, and ignorance. I cannot learn unless I am willing to receive, and sometimes that includes having what I have said conflict with the thoughts of others, and vice versa.