September 4, 2009

The Death of Rational Dialogue

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 11:35 am by Editorial Team

There was a time when rational dialogue and differing opinions were acceptable, even applauded in our culture.  However, we are rapidly approaching a period where our socialization and upbringing will be the sole influence on our beliefs and ideas about the world.  Any outside force to espouse a differing opinion will be immediately rejected.

I’m referring to our President speaking to our schoolchildren, but this issue is evidence that the issue is even deeper than we realize.  The meme going out on right-wing television is that we can’t let our children listen to the President’s address on education to children, because he’s a socialist.  First of all, he’s simply going to tell children to value their education and stay in school.  Bush and Regan both gave these speeches.

So through this event, we are teaching our children not to listen to people we disagree with.  And this is because…?  Honestly, I can’t fathom.  My parents taught me to listen to people first, even if I disagreed with them.  Listening is not accepting or condoning an idea or action.  It’s the process of deriving understanding and meaning among people — and exchanging ideas.

Apparently, this idea is lost on much of our society — especially in the realm of politics.  Turn to any cable news network show.  They have two guys from opposing views shouting at each other exchanging tawdry slogans and “talking points”.  Neither understands the other, only the construct which each has created of the other.  We’ve lost a very serious skill in our culture — the ability to have meaningful discussion that accepts nuance and the search for truth.  Postmodernism was supposed to fix that, but it didn’t.  It simply left people even more disconnected from facts and argument.

Dialogue, nuance, and exchange are rarely valued in politics, and it’s only a matter of time before this begins to devalue other aspects.  The movie Idiocracy comes to mind.

We send this message to our children, because it’s what we believe.  If we ultimately hold our own paradigm as perfect, how can we allow someone to potentially listen to something that is flawed and destructive?  If our own paradigm truly is perfect, we should allow people to explore and return to it.  But likely, our own paradigm is flawed, and we should be willing to listen to others.

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