Skip to comments.Yes, We Can Bring Back Civil Debate in Polarized Times
Posted on 05/08/2022 7:27:21 AM PDT by Kaslin
Last month marked the 200th birthday of Ulysses S. Grant, a man second only to Abraham Lincoln in his contributions to ending slavery and saving the Union during the Civil War, but whose legacy today is often under assault for his other imperfections, as we view him through a 21st century lens.
As a former history teacher, overcoming this tendency to read history backwards was one of my greatest challenges, and it continues to be an educational struggle in the classroom today. Historical empathy calls for a deep understanding of people’s actions in the past, multiple forms of evidence and perspective, and an intellectually healthy degree of separation from the topic and time period that is being studied. Essentially, invite students to understand the context of history by teaching kids how to suspend their present world views when examining the past. When we instruct them how to thoughtfully investigate history, we foster the skills to critically examine the present and confidently participate in evidence-based, nonpersonal debate.
I know that sounds like a fantasy in the current moment. The hyperpartisan rhetoric we are bombarded with on a daily basis is undeniably relentless. Through our TVs and smartphones, we are constantly being fed pithy tweets and ad hominem attacks that lead to a click-bait argumentative abyss. Whether it’s a battle over the historical significance of 1619 versus 1776, the art of debate has been replaced by a shoutfest measured in virality, decibels, and absolutism.
To be sure, recent polling shows that we still regard debate as a valuable tool of discourse. With the RNC’s recent decision to withdraw from the bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates, 83% of all voters polled agreed that it is important for presidential candidates to participate in debates. While the form of debate is still recognized as an essential component of maintaining the health of our democratic republic, the content of debate has certainly become more divisive. This is a shame, because thoughtful, informed debate is one of the most powerful instructional tools for teaching our children how to be effective citizens.
In fact, a promising indication of hope for debate can already be found in our kids today outside the classroom. While the Senate was conducting their Supreme Court nomination hearings earlier this month – which is now fraught with partisan questioning – I had the privilege to witness kids across the country critically debate on the topic of instituting term limits on Supreme Court Justices. One of the most impactful parts of competitive debate, is that the students must prepare for and argue both sides of the debate, rather than rigidly adhere to a few talking points as is often the case for public debate at the highest (and lowest) levels.
Whether students debated remotely or in-person, their well-crafted, policy-focused arguments leaped off the screen and off from the podium. I was amazed, but also not surprised, that these kids were engaging in high-level policy debates on-par with, and in some instances surpassing, their senior counterparts. In preparing for their academic debates, they carefully examined everything from the Constitution to a long history of policies and political debate. They then had to summarize and deliver the most effective arguments and illustrations for their side. By grappling with resources and acquiring a deep understanding of the opposition, these kids were able to unlock the power of critical thinking and gain confidence in their own public speaking and communication skills.
Studies have also shown that competitive debate participation has been linked to improved academic performance and college readiness. Outside of academic benefits, studies have also shown debate has positive outcomes for strong social-emotional development and self-efficacy. We shouldn’t shield our kids from debate, we should encourage them to embrace it and learn how to engage in it with more informed empathy. Through our programs, both in-person and our new online courses, we aim to empower students with these very skills.
Furthermore, by wrestling with history outside of a textbook, and by giving kids the debate podium, they can learn from experience and actively interact with primary and secondary resources on a deeper level. Empowering kids with the true power of debate by teaching them how to historically empathize both on the debate stage and off the debate stage, will also cultivate present-day empathy and turn the tides of polarization. Believe it or not, when we host our national championship in July, the students leave the competition as friends.
Indeed, as the Civil War came to a close, both Lincoln and Grant knew that the best way to destroy your enemy was not through battle, or through Twitter, or through the media. “The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend,” said Lincoln. At Appomattox, Grant tipped his cap to his vanquished foes as a sign of respect.
It should not be 1619 versus 1776, and it should not be school boards versus parents or Fox versus CNN. We should discuss all timelines of history within their proper contexts, and debate meaningfully despite our differences. Through empathetic historical inquiry and debate, the next generation can usher in the restoration of informed, civil discussion.
“The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend,” said Lincoln.
“With friends like THAT, you don’t NEED any enemies!” ~ My Dad
One side can’t do it all by itself.
Step #1: Go to BLM riot, pro-life protest, or any other venue where liberal scum are in attendance, and make an attempt at "debate"... dumbass.
On Mars maybe. On this planet, the global leftists have reformed our skuuls so we don't have debate or dissent or reasoned discourse. That is the whole point. They just want us dead or in work camps until we learn right thinking as established by the DGB loonie-girl.
Just another Town hall neo con global shilling nothing to see here move along folks article.
a house divided against itself can not stand
That’s for sure. America isn’t a house divided, it’s two warring houses.
The left has decided we were born racist extremists.
Their only solution is to kill us.
There is nothing to debate.
Lincoln apparently believed in making friends from enemies only after destroying them.
I've run into those kind of people, talked with them, etc.. They're not yet a majority of Democrats, but they are a very substantial, and growing, minority.
Plenty of rw loons tooo.
In other words, Democrats don't have any historical empathy.
“The left has decided we were born racist extremists.”
It appears the author has thrown in with this since his line about the 1619 Project seems to grant it moral equivalence with the Founders. There is nothing to debate with those NYT writers who believe the US was founded to advance racial slavery to the advantage of the white male. There is no common ground nor valid perspective for rhetorical engagement.
Has this idiot conservative seen the state of toady's political left, or is he still celebrating Ronald Reagan's election from 40 years ago?
The people opposing “free speech” are not interesting in any dialogue. Case-in-point: I tuned into a live panel discussion at 8:45 this morning on bitcoin and its future that included Cathie Wood of Arc Invest and Elon Musk. About 30 seconds into the stream YouTube cut it off with a banner that said the broadcast was terminated because one of the participant’s account was terminated. This could only have been Elon Musk.
We are no longer living in a free nation when tech oligarchs get to arbitrarily decide who gets to speak and who doesn’t. Plan your future accordingly.
Demi gods don’t debate at all ever period. Guys like the author are empty eyed old ladies.
How? If the Left behaves themselves, they lose. Without the implied threat of violence if they don’t get their way, their policies would not even be a footnote in US politics.
There are 2 realities, why I have lived to be 83 besides good DNA!
1. No discussing anything with liberals at age 40.
2. Having nothing to do with liberals at age 50.
My wife realized, that I was correct after she finally retired when at 71.
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