Loyal to the Nightmare of My Choice
I loved being a teacher. One of my favorite teaching techniques was to inspire intelligent debate among my students. The trick is to debate the topic without getting personal. This isn’t always easy, but it’s an important life skill that good instructors teach while they’re teaching literature or science or math.
The Heart of Darkness always inspired heated debates. Was it racist, or meant to be anti-racist? What does the river symbolize? Is Kurtz or Marlow the hero of the story? Classrooms full of teens have long debated these questions, and in my class they did so without name-calling, anger or personal attack- mainly because I was there to stop such things and to guide my students in constructive discussions between differing opinions. They were kids, and they were learning how to discuss without degenerating into angry insults.
Most of us learn these skills but somewhere along the way, we forget them. Nowhere is this more evident than online. Intelligent debate is virtually nonexistent. (See what I did there? Virtually non… nevermind.) It’s easy to find passionate, animated, strong opinions – and those are good things and shouldn’t be mistaken for rude or angry. But there’s a line between passionate and pig-headed, and it’s similar to the line between debating the topic and attacking the debater.
It’s hard to want to engage in what has become an increasingly strident, angry, confrontational and personal war waged by people who use insults as compensation for a lack of intelligent opinion. Clearly these folks were never my students.
These days, I just keep my own pig-headed opinions to myself.