From the very beginning, fiercely engaging in protecting perceived freedoms--
From a variety of life experiences, yet unable to welcome diversity and newcomers--
A people often at war with each other, unaware of the perspectives of others in distant cities and rural towns--
Always us and them--
“The United States is a fragile nation. Always has been.” Ira Socol
Now participatory web-based technologies and with them grand opportunities to listen, engage in conversation and come to understand each other—for all voices to be lifted and heard
With no norms, no expectations for civil discourse, no voluntary compliance to listen, to reason— these very technologies seem to amplify vitriol, unleashed passions and incivility.
Sadly, it is the President’s speech to students on Tuesday at noon which has been met with great resistance by some and embraced by others that compels this writing because tragically, the language around this issue has again highlighted the inability of our diverse populace to engage in civil discourse with seemingly few exceptions.
Even as Will Richardson eloquently and with great civility reflects upon the possible lost opportunity for a “teachable moment”, at least one of his readers touched the fringes of “us and them” oratory.
It brings me to wonder--
What if we took the lead--
What if we made a concerted effort--
And made use of these participatory technologies to model -- really listening to another’s perspective, and then engaging in civil discourse without the “us and them language” that polarizes and separates us all even more. Not just in online educational communities (although it seems to me there is need here also) but face to face in faculty meetings, classrooms, board of education meetings, meetings with parents –and online in response to news postings in our local area and beyond. What if videos illustrating the potential and power of civil discourse were posted by students or educators and went viral.
Don’t we live in a new age in which we can converse with others easily through the affordances of web technologies? Can’t this be a time when what’s always been is no longer good enough? Can’t we stop lamenting our situation and resolve to make an effort? Can’t we be about eradicating “us and them” mentality? Can’t we each, individually and through collective action, work to bring our nation’s people to a new and better place?
What if we did-- imagine the possibilities--