If there's one thing this election cycle has taught us it's that we are passionate people who care deeply about the future of America. It has also taught us that we are conflicted, even polarized from one another. Very soon, one way or another, the elections will be over and then we will be faced with another choice to make; will we build bridges and come together or will we build more walls between us and remain divided? On the brink of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln warned, "A house divided against itself cannot stand." That is as true today as it was in 1858.
For many of us, conflict makes us super uncomfortable. We really do want a peaceful life where we could all just get along. We may even share many of the same goals, but the reality is that equally good people can have diametrically opposed views of the best ways to achieve those same goals.
That's where we come in. As Teachers, parents and caregivers, we can give our next generations the skills many of us feel like we're lacking. By teaching our kids about constructive conflict and training them as peace leaders we won't need to issue trigger warnings or create safe spaces. Today the fear of debate can be so controlling that we choose to segregate ourselves away from divergent thought rather than integrate our community so everyone's ideas can be heard.
We can teach our kids simple methods of active listening- not for the purpose of rebuttal but for the purpose of understanding. We can teach our communities about respect as a way of acknowledgment that we are all entitled to dignity and equality as human beings no matter what our differences may be. It can be done but it must be taught; it will not happen accidentally.
If we don't teach our kids creative conflict resolution we doom them to complete isolation. Surrounded only by an ever-narrowing community of like-minded people where nothing matters more than validation of one's beliefs, even at the expense of education about the diversity of beliefs in the wider world. I think our kids deserve better. We were taught to value diversity and not to be threatened by it and I believe that must include the diversity of thought as well. If we can teach our children the skills of advocacy for their beliefs then we arm them with the skills to not just rage against oppression, but we give them the power to actually change the minds and hearts of the community. Teaching respect is the key to conflict resolution because without it, we simply cannot be heard. Self-righteousness is the fastest way to alienate our listener but respect opens minds no matter how closed they try to be.
These are the skills we need to teach our kids so the next generations are free to advocate and free to express their views. Without them, we raise a generation of delicate flowers that might wilt at the first sign of confrontation. I don't understand how we can hope for a brighter future if we shy away from teaching our kids how to grapple with tough issues using empathy, active listening and constructive debate as a means to affect a change that unites us all.