I live on Cape Cod a summer tourists destination. Recently I struck up a conversation with a fellow beach goer. We chatted about many things. At one point she asked if I was a local. She said she was afraid to ask as she did not want to offend. First off what does she think of locals if she thinks I would be offended. But that said, why should any one be afraid to ask a question, are we so afraid we might offend or display ignorance that we would refrain from learning?
Isn’t the point of learning to remove ignorance, gain knowledge and understanding. We can’t do that if we have fear.
During my walk on the beach I remembered a line from the movie 1776 (Musical)*. Stephen Hopkins of Rhode Island states “Well, in all my years I ain’t never heard, seen nor smelled an issue that was so dangerous it couldn’t be talked about. Hell yeah! I’m for debating anything.”
I initially thought to myself I am never afraid to ask a question and I will discuss anything. But I distinctly remember a time when fear of offending or appearing to be the “ugly American” got in the way of my learning, as well as, delayed developing a good friendship.
I used to live in Jordan and became acquainted with a Jordanian-Palestinian woman. For along time we talked about food, school, our children, and local historic sites. But we never touched upon issues of faith, religion and politics among other topics. She is a Muslim and I a Christian. We both never broached these topics, we feared we would offend each other, we feared people would think we were trying to convert each other, we feared we would display our ignorance, we feared we would loose a friendship. When we both decided we would not be offended and expressed our desire to learn about each other and the things that were important to each of us we became even better friends. I learned so much. My perspective on many things changed as did hers. We cleared away many stereotypes and had a greater respect for each other. Fear got in the way of our growth and learning.
How often has fear inhibited you from learning? How often has fear been a barrier to your students learning?
* I watch this movie among others as part of my July 4th celebrations.