I took the kids to get Halloween costumes yesterday and while waiting online at the mall food court, I could not help but over hear a conversation. The topic debated is not important but one of the statements has caused me to get on my soap box.
“Anyone who thinks that way is an a——!”
Why do we attack people with whom we do not agree? What happened to discussing ideas and trying to see the other point or points of view? What happened to asking someone to back up their ideas, ask about the facts or the assumptions used to support their arguments? Have we become intellectually lazy? Maybe in a discussion of ideas and the reasoning and analysis of those ideas you might just persuade the other person to your way of thinking. Or God forbid, you might actually learn something about your own.
In this age of Information and all our discussions about information literacy why do we not use some of the same principles in our conversations? As educators do we not encourage critical thinking and analysis, can we help our students apply these skills outside of the classroom?
As I have grown older my views have varied widely over a range of issues. As I experience life, learn new information and test out my thinking I have had to change and modify my understanding. Maybe I am a constructivist at heart and view learning as a fluid process of constant change and growth.
In my online teaching the focus in the discussion forums is to use Socratic questioning. We take on the role of the curious questioner, as the facilitator at times I become the ‘devil’s advocate’. Students present opposing views and through questioning we try to stimulate thought and develop a deeper understanding of the ideas. We ask each other to outline the facts and look at the underlying assumptions and inferences in their arguments. We agree to accept that there is more then one correct answer or opinion. The goal is to explore an idea from a variety of angles. The reasoning process is stressed not just the idea being discussed.
My learning networked is comprised primarily of educators. As I look at my twitter and plurk feeds I see that there are times we do not practice what we teach. I too find that I respond emotionally, I am doing that now, and not always rationally. I need to start asking questions and try to understand these differing points of view and the reasoning behind them. You never know I might learn something.