Monday, September 15, 2008

Communication 101

I've realized recently what it is that makes for a productive conversation. You need a few things:

1) A point of view
2) Another person with a point of view (it can be the same or different from your own)
3) A sense of humor
4) The desire to learn - (ATTN: that means it's not about proving the other person wrong)

I'm mainly drawing on a recent "conversation" with my brother-in-law.

We do not talk politics or religion with Shelly's family because we are in disagreement with them on almost any issue you can imagine. The only time I even try is when it is clear that we are all in agreement. It's just not worth it otherwise. Her mom is terrified of conflict (and I think the story that follows kind of explains why) and so as soon as any disagreement over anything occurs she basically ends the conversation (even when she hasn't been part of it).

Well, the other day we were with her family and the subject of Stanton dropping the 2.0 requirement came up (if you're unfamiliar with this, ask and I'll explain in the comments). I stayed out of it because it turns out I feel like the requirements can be equated to soft racism, and her brother tends to not believe racism exists. Which is funny, since he is the second most racist person I know. Anyway, I let the conversation continue as long as I could without interrupting. I was pretending to read e-mail on my phone.

Finally, I heard her brother say, "The problem honestly isn't with the school system in general. It's the black culture. That's what is ruining those schools on the north and west sides of town."

Excuse me?

I said, "Josh, clearly those neighborhoods have been neglected for years by our city, and we should be really trying to make those schools the very best in order to break the cycles and structures that are in play. I mean, everyone should have a quality education. Not just those in the 'good' parts of town."

He said, "It's not the schools, it's the culture."

I said, "And school is part of culture. It may even be the primary place we learn culture."

Now, up to this point it was clear he was irritated at my liberal notion that everyone should have access to quality education. I know, I'm a commie. But, it hadn't quite seemed to break any of my above rules.

Until he shouted, "You just want the government to raise kids. Don't you see you're asking government to do way more than it's meant to?"

Talking points are not the way forward in a conversation. Shouting me down is not the way forward. Treating me like I'm stupid and naive is not the way forward. I tuned out because it was no longer about learning anything. It was about being right. And I really don't care how right you think you are (or how right I think I am, for that matter). If we are to move forward as a society, the conversation has to become about how to move forward as a society, not who has the right ideology.


Rachelle said...

You're a dirty hippie AND a dirty commie!

Quinn said...

I was wondering what the smell was.

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