Oftentimes when people who are on opposite ends of the political spectrum attempt to discuss politics on TV or online, it seems like there’s more shouting and attacking than actual discussion of the issues. Students need to be taught how to have productive conversations in online spaces; that’s one of the goals of the teachers in the Youth Voices community.
Here’s a link to some suggestions about how students might talk to one another when discussing others’ online compositions and here’s another guide for how to have a productive discussion when you disagree with someone.
Here’s an example from the “Yes We Can” example: One student goes into great detail about why he dislikes Katie’s post. However, the tone of Katie’s response is even-tempered.
This isn’t an isolated instance. This ethos of civil and civic dialogue pervades much of the student conversation on Youth Voices, even when students are on opposite sides of the political spectrum. For instance, in the fall of 2009 when President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize, again divisive and bitter language arose in the professional media and in online chatter. Tess, a student of mine, wrote in support of Obama; another student, Ben, who identifies himself as a political conservative challenges Tess, but he does so in a way the encourages conversation, not acrimony.
The teachers that I collaborative with in the Youth Voices community aren’t telling students to “just get along,” in fact we encourage disagreement – productive disagreement. And in my opinion that’s what separates the writing that these students do with the nonproductive political dialogue that often takes place today.