Sunday, May 11, 2008

"Shut up!"

Many of my students have grown up accustomed to expressing intolerance of each other's words by barking, "Shut up!" In my former days, I also liked to tell people to shut up but eventually grew out of it. I tossed aside such language because I was told by older people that it's simply "disrespectful." That, plus the desire to be an all-around nice guy, provided the necessary motivation to simply let people have their say, regardless of the merit of their words. So there was no need for further examination of the subject.

As a teacher, my classroom sometimes becomes a fishbowl where I get to observe behavior and think about old things in new ways. To my shame, it had never occurred to me before this school year that telling people to shut up is not just disrespectful or mean, but also ridiculously counterproductive. In fact, telling a person to shut up does nothing but ensure the opposite of what is desired: a response that is even more undesirable than the original statement that was so offensive. So why do people, even adults, still speak that way?

They resort to put-down tactics because they have not learned to lovingly speak truth in the face of opposing voices. Furthermore, truth and reason were never on their side in the first place. The attempt to silence one's opposition is always an attempt to cover one's own lack of ideological merit. Truth does not need the advocacy of verbal, physical, or authoritarian coercion. It has its own buoyancy.

1 comment:

Vincent Baxter said...

well put. this job is just as much about learning how to get along with one another as it is doing well on tests. that's definitely what we try to do at our school.