While formulating ideas for a blog on discussion of ideas in teaching Othello to A level students, I became aware of a different kind of debating altogether – the adult kind. the Twitter adult kind, to be specific.
As teachers of students, we encourage young people to broaden their views, test out conflicting ideas, accept something from an opposing perspective. As adults, though, we tend to consolidate particular views as the ‘evidence’ of our experience seems to confirm a point of view as a matter of unquestionable fact. Our views are reinforced by friends and colleagues – those we have selected and those who have self-selected out of similarity to ourselves.
My association with Twitter is fairly short – about a year. But in that time I have seen some terrible skirmishes, of wit and of judgement, claims of moral high-ground, betrayals of trust, intellectual belittling and out-and-out character slayings. I was also reminded of these behaviours watching Britain’s Biggest Primary School this week.
Yet on Twitter we chose who to follow – if we don’t like Dapper Laughs, we don’t have to interact with his behaviour, views and ideas. And we’re grown ups. If someone prefers, wants or needs to remain anonymous – let’s respect that, without assuming that their anonymity makes them less than human when it comes to attacking their output. We know there are cliques…let’s call them friendships. Why shouldn’t there be? We know that some prefer to confine their comments to a choice few. So let them. Twitter is about so much vanity – who hasn’t noticed how some contributors retweet each others’ blogs in perpetuity? That’s fine. For some, the following is the success – not for all – that’s also fine.
We are adults, yes, but we can also be childish. We all can. We are not perfect and we are not all the same. I am like some in that I steer well clear of certain rows, though I’ll debate comfortably at other times. In The Spectator last week an article focused on this issue – stating that diversity is needed to create strength. A range of views and methods is needed for us to be able to evaluate our own. If I only ever bought or tasted one type of coffee, how would I know how good it really was? If I only ever seek confirmation for my ideas, how do I know if they really have any quality? If I can’t see the flaws myself, I’d prefer someone to point them out than go ahead with a poorly developed view.
I teach my student the Yes No Both Also routine for developing, evaluating and extending ideas. I don’t always stick to it either.