Lance Scranton: Shut it down!
January 23, 2018
If you have an idea or opinion about something or someone, you might want to keep it to yourself. Someone who disagrees with your expression can make you really uncomfortable, because it seems to be common practice these days to shut down ideas or opinions deemed harmful or hurtful, or which might hamper a certain ideological bent.
Like a government shutdown, opposing ideas lead to disagreements, resulting in a political duel. But unlike the Old West, when the two disagreeables stood face-to-face, today we have much more refined and peaceful methods for settling our differences; character assassination, social media bullying and personal attacks seem to be the way we settle our differences. The only problem is that the methodology makes no room for any kind of societal benefit.
Small town life definitely shields us from the effects of these kinds of cultural skirmishes that break out — or does it?
Sure, we generally don't face the possibility of imminent harm if we espouse our views about politics, social issues, or local events. But, the effect of our national lack of conversation regarding uncomfortable ideas and opinions leads to an expression-chilling front that sweeps across both big cities and small towns. Liberty is a messy business and was never intended to be a safe place to stay comfortable with av certain political orthodoxy or belief system.
Usually, my classroom is a cornucopia of ideas, opinions and beliefs that we spend a good amount of time discussing, but the past few years, it has become more difficult to challenge student ideas and opinions, because they are more resistant to share. More and more students are afraid they will be viewed a certain way or that their opinions will be seen insensitive, racist, or judgmental.
It is very difficult for kids, the culture or our small town to critique itself unless some form of discernment is inherent in the conversations we have and in the ideas that we share. Failing to examine our choices, decisions and reasons leads to the kind of life Socrates famously said wasn't worth living. A culture that places its highest value on being non-judgmental will always resist making difficult decisions. Complacency and mediocrity stalk our minds and attitudes when we are more interested in getting along than learning and growing. Young and old have good ideas, informed opinions and beneficial beliefs, but they need a culture that values their expression and listens patiently instead of shutting down the voices we don't want to hear. The richest ideas of democracy are fostered when we have the courage to listen to ideas we might not necessarily like but realize we have the responsibility to allow into the light of liberty.
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Lance Scranton is a teacher and coach at Moffat County High School.