Education Reform: “I’m Right, You’re Wrong!”

The Importance of Conflict in Education

I just found the site Dropout Nation (the site for the link above) as I looked for images. I feel the article has a lot of important things to say. I guess the only thing I would bring up to question is the word Conflict; I would prefer to substitute Dialogue, just about every time. The author of the piece, having moderated debates in and out of the educational arena, says:

Strong, vigorous, fractious debate — also known in most circles as conflict — is absolutely healthy and important. It is critical to maintaining the intellectual vitality of a movement, and important in shedding light on the need to transform education for our children.

If you read the comments of  my last post, Education Reform: Global Education Challenge, you will get my view point: healthy dialogue and debate is extremely important for any change to really happen. Not just in schools but really with adults as well. The kids opinions are not always as fixed and there is a chance to grow listeners and thinkers. I have seen this in action in many of my drama classes, and especially in my Process Drama work (for more on that, please check the left side scroll for Past Posts).

This moves away from the rote teach-to-the-test method that we are seeing in America. Open dialogue, in a safe environment to share (which, with students AND adults, is an ongoing battle and constantly needs to be reinforced) is a huge learning tool: critical thinking; presentational skills; organizing thoughts; collaborative work (small and large groups; partnerships); non-violent problem solving; risk taking; imaginative leaps of logic &/or illogic (which is still valid, imo); social engagement; seeing things from a different point of view (POV); conflict resolution; and awareness of creating a safe area to share ideas.

How many adult situations are we faced with daily where the above principles if set in place and applied would benefit greatly from that?

When we yell, or force our POV on someone else…when we stop listening to what someone else says…we are shutting them up and shutting them OUT.

“I’m right. You are wrong.”

Most of the conflicts start and end there. We can’t all be right and the other side can’t be all wrong.*

It’s my belief that while we need to work on open and free dialogue in schools, it is also extremely important to institute this as an ongoing learning goal for adults. There are too many in a power situation (political, managerial, wealth or other social status function) that feel that they have the right to TELL others, but they don’t have to listen themselves. It’s not healthy for any of us.

What are your thoughts? Please comment below.

*POINT: I am not including fascist, war mongering, hateful POVs here. There seems to be only one solution for those, and dialogue and acceptance is not among their answers: exterminate their opposition. So, as the son of a survivor of Auschwitz, and who experienced watching the events of 9/11 as they unfolded, please understand that. I do not, in anyway, condone any violent or hateful act as a means of solving anything.

Post Script: Not much can be discussed after that (the above) happens. Think I’m over exaggerating here? Think of it: someone goes off on you, refuses to listen, shuts you out, and goes ahead and goes about what they were going to do, think the same way, give no other thought or care to another…you’ve been personally nuked and made unimportant, made non-existent.

26 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sweepy Jean
    May 29, 2011 @ 17:06:51

    So true, Stu. So how do we get beyond the “I’m right, you’re wrong syndrome?”


    • bornstoryteller
      May 29, 2011 @ 18:36:00

      It’s not easy. When I do it in my classroom, it’s mandatory: ONLY one person can speak at any time. You can not raise your hand with an “Oooo OOOo” and stop listening. The person speaking needs to finish. I also call people in a numbered order. I tell them they must make a quick note of they won’t get called on for a bit (and I mean quick) to get them back to the track if it hasn’t already been answered. And..statements have to be made, not just “I don’t like that”, or just plain simple arguements.

      With adults: tape mouths shut, work on listening skills, then be allowed to speak and be heard when it’s their turn.


  2. tom
    May 29, 2011 @ 17:19:44

    Stu, very true. It goes both ways and in almost all aspects of our lives. We’ve lost the “civil discourse” in our political dialogue and it spills over to our everyday lives. One side will make a proposal for whatever, and the other automatically takes an opposing view. Often demonizing the opposition in the process. I think it often boils down to one group protecting their power or influence and the other trying to break it.


  3. Alejandro
    May 29, 2011 @ 17:35:58

    You know? I love discourse as I know I will learn hear something I haven’t thought of. It doesn’t mean I should keep my opinions to myself. If that were the case there would be no polite conversation. So I am right until you think I am wrong knowing I was right was wrong… Love ya mate

    Cheers A


    • bornstoryteller
      May 29, 2011 @ 18:38:35

      A, totally agree. I WANT to hear someone’s else’s POV to try and get an understanding of a concept or why they believe or do what they do. Just, follow suit and allow me to voice mine.


  4. Roy Durham
    May 29, 2011 @ 18:18:48

    there is and old story of a man who fill a bag till he could not put any more in it. bragging he said “that is all. no one can put any thing more in it.”then a mouse said ” i can” and he walk over and put a hole in the bag. thank you and god bless


  5. Geezer
    May 29, 2011 @ 18:20:31

    How perfectly your last paragraph fits a situation that happened to me very recently in a mutual Facebook user group. I know how it feels … I’ve been nuked! Thanks for a great post, just when I needed it.


    • bornstoryteller
      May 29, 2011 @ 18:29:59

      Hi Don: Thanks for reading and commenting. Getting nuked sucks. There is no chance to right wrongs, be heard from again, nada. We are dismissed and are nothing but dust at that point. Soryr you had that happen. I’ve been hearing of a few other nukings lately on FB, and it is starting to feel like the melt down that happened so often in the old AOL chat rooms.


  6. Debra Elramey
    May 29, 2011 @ 20:41:27

    Stuart, I just finished reading “The Importance of Conflict in Education” and, to be honest, I have to say that your article here, “I’m Right, You’re Wrong?” is far more effective in communicating the point of a civil debate than the other writer’s. Although he made some valid points, his writing was more didactic and less clear-cut than yours.


    • bornstoryteller
      May 29, 2011 @ 20:46:15

      Thank you Debra. I know I have a habit of being too wordy at times or going on my tangents (non-linear thinking is great), so it’s good to hear this.

      I have always detested academic treatises or books where, in all honesty, if you read the chapter summary you get the entirety of the chapter, except for examples. Skimming back you get those.

      I don’t need 15 different ways of saying the same exact thing. One thing if it’s cited heavily.



  7. Roy Durham
    May 29, 2011 @ 21:20:51

    Every person starts learning the day they were born. Any school or all schools should have the same goal. To teach a student to think, not how or what, but two openly learn. Teaching a person to read, write, and to do math are keys to the door of tomorrow. Teach them to pass a test is not. Teach a person to be creative and use their heads is what needs to be done. The how is what the schools needs to learn. Government should provide the funding, but should have little or no say as to how it is to be done. School boards should strip of policy makers and be reduce to the smallest number of budget managers. Learning stops when teaching becomes preaching, fun becomes work. Creativity becomes shunned. There is more but the first thing is to set a clear obtainable goal. Then plan for the achieving the goal. Then communicate the plan. Thank you and god bless


    • bornstoryteller
      May 30, 2011 @ 03:12:36

      Thanks Roy. The thing is, what is going on in practice are ALL the things you are saying shouldn’t be done. It’s sickening: we see it, but the idiots “in charge” don’t, or won’t.


  8. Dangerous Linda
    May 30, 2011 @ 02:37:39

    Peace will continue to elude us until we can listen to each other without resorting to “nuking” each other, literally or figuratively. I recently had the following online chat with a teen-age friend who I think showed more wisdom in this area than most adults I know:

    Adam: For the Euro movie [I’m producing] about the Holocaust, I’ve been doing research to see what kinds of torture the Nazis performed. Let’s just say I’ve lost about three days of sleep because it’s all pure, unleaded high-octane nightmare fuel.

    Dangerous Linda: What would make people do such things?

    Adam: As a horror director, I briefly considered put in Mengele. Then, I decided that there were things that shouldn’t ever be put in a Junior class European History project. As for why they did it…Insanity. Megalomania. Egotism. Delusions. There’s a lot of reasons, and none of them are good…

    Dangerous Linda: None of them are good, but all of them run rampant in greater or lesser degrees, in human nature …

    Adam: Humans are flawed. That’s why we create art. We try to escape our flaws, or at least make them beautiful.

    Dangerous Linda: You are wise beyond your years …


    • bornstoryteller
      May 30, 2011 @ 03:14:05

      hi Linda: he is a smart kid. IF he needs some background work still, my Father was in Auschwitz. He’s gone now, but I did write a play about the stories I do know, more about before and after. Let me know..and thanks for the response.


  9. InJensMind
    May 30, 2011 @ 03:04:33

    I don’t like the term conflict whatsoever. It has a double meaning and for the most part is always referring to negative violence. Schools should be teaching children how to resolve any issue without using violence. Parents, adults, caregivers and children need to learn how to resolve a conflict of interest or a difference of opinion verbally without hate and violence. Today’s society has allowed bullying to become the norm. “You don’t agree with me, so I will hack your Facebook or make a fake account…call you names and ruin your reputation.” Suicide amongst school age children and young adults is high because they and their attackers don’t know how to resolve a difference of opinion. Learning how to listen and articulate your opinion in a non-threatening non-bullying way without anger and violence should be taught and enforced.


    • bornstoryteller
      May 30, 2011 @ 03:18:20

      Hi Jennifer: yes, that was what I objected to in the article I linked to: we don’t need CONFLICT, but we do need positive dialogue models and how to listen and respond in an unheated, non-violent way. I have the same problem with Constructive Criticism. Criticism to me is a very negative word. I use Critique only now. To me, that is a way to grow. Conflict and Criticism tear things down.


    • MaeganMaegna
      Aug 10, 2011 @ 23:34:21

      While I agree with you in essence it seems to me that you do a lot of shoulding. One of the things I taught my child from a very young age (they are now in their thirties) was “thou shalt not should upon”. The phrase came from a wise old priest.
      The thing about shoulding is that it can prevent us from responding to the person we are talking to who may or may not ascribe to your belief. I see this all the time in our local peace and justice community. They are a wonderful group of people but when challenged they become reactive and defensive at times. It is at those moments that they begin to have the external and internal conversations that other people should think the same way they do.


      • bornstoryteller
        Aug 11, 2011 @ 19:37:41

        hi Maegan. I honestly have to say, I am a wee bit confused by your term “shoulding” and how it pertains to what I wrote about. I have always called for DIALOGUE, to open up communications, instead of forcing someone’s opinion on another. I feel we need to HEAR the other instead of just automatically saying the “I’m right, you’re wrong” mentality in our society. So…if you wouldn’t mind explaining a bit more. I’m lost with what you are really getting at.

  10. kerbe
    May 30, 2011 @ 14:30:32

    Without conflict there is no drama.

    The problem with language is that meaning is never an absolute: Popular opinion and usage CHANGES meaning from community to community. “Criticism,” for example, is a noun. “Critique” is a verb that, through misuse, has become a noun. Neither word is “good” or “bad” by nature — words, in themselves, are amoral: Words are the tools we use to communicate. The issue is – and always has been – how those tools are used. “Hammers don’t kill people – People kill people.” Just ask Joe Orton…


    • bornstoryteller
      May 30, 2011 @ 15:14:47

      Hi Ken..thanks for commenting. I have a Masters in Oral Traditions, and really love language. I guess I don’t see it as a problem (with language evolving), but I understand what you are saying.
      I can conjugate my verbs with the best of them (at times): thanks Mrs. Snepvanger! Yes, it’s how you use a word. I can say “That’s Nice” but really have it mean the “F*** You” I meant it to be. I get it: actor as well.
      In that regard, I was posting how I view the word, and that I see the words criticize and criticism as attack words. To critique has different connotations for ME, and it’s how I approach my teaching and coaching. No one has to “take up the cause” for or about me, but I feel they should understand and accept that this is how I feel, this is how I perceive it and it’s overall usage.

      Hope you got something more out of the post then the use of the word.


  11. Nando-Em-Brooklyn
    Jun 01, 2011 @ 03:01:42

    Hello Stuart,

    I am having a hard time with your characterization of “conflict” and “criticism” as violent.

    … and with your statement that “they should understand and accept that this is how I feel, this is how I perceive it and it’s overall usage.” [“it” = conflict]

    Can you elaborate? Am I missing something?



    • bornstoryteller
      Jun 01, 2011 @ 03:58:46

      Hi Fernando: I’ll do my best. Let me know if you still need me to clarify.
      The way the article uses the word “conflict”: to me it is detrimental to what he is talking about: open dialogue and discussion. The heated “conflict” style, imo, does not advance Listening skills. There should be a total freedom of expression your view point, someone needs to really hear it. Then, they have the chance to voice theirs. Take it in, ask questions, dig deeper. Debate just tries to prove they are better at presenting an idea or theme. It’s not dialogue. It’s a contest, someone HAS to win.
      In a real dialogue, there should be some form of understanding of different POVs. You may not still agree with it, but you’ll see where the other person comes from. You MIGHT alter your thinking on a point or two, or not. But, you’ve at least given it a chance to be voiced and heard, without judgments.
      As to the word “criticism’: for years, from this one or that one, I have been criticized for one thing or the other. That amounted to someone unleashing disappointment or anger towards me (or others). But, the idea of “that’s it again.” or whatever words used, are tearing down and belittling. Critique, how I use it, points out how to grow and make things better. It builds up the esteem and gives you a chance to keep working for your best. Criticizing is the opposite for me.
      What I write about how I feel, it is just that: How I feel. If someone disagrees, that’s fine. Tell me your view point. I’ll listen. I can agree with your or not. But..if someone criticizes me for my belief (I don’t like the words criticize and conflict, as used) and puts me down or belittles how I feel, then..that’s not dialogue, and I won’t learn anything new. I’ll most likely stop listening, because while I believe someone has the right to share their beliefs, they have NO right to push them on me and try to make me see their way. I will, or I wont.
      I def won’t if someone is obnoxious about it. I don’t like playing the superiority game with people. It’s childish and shows, to me, that that other person likes playing power games.

      I hope this helps. Like I said, if not, please ask me to clarify some more.


  12. Maegan
    Aug 11, 2011 @ 20:23:22

    Sorry for any confusion. I was specifically responding to InJensMind. “Schools should be teaching children how to resolve any issue without using violence.” “Learning how to listen and articulate your opinion in a non-threatening non-bullying way without anger and violence should be taught and enforced.”
    While I agree with the spirit of the sentiment I was speaking to the difficulties that occur when we try to communicate with someone by telling them what they “should” do. My family refers to it as shoulding. The use of the word should sets up the I’m right – Your wrong in many situations.


    • bornstoryteller
      Aug 11, 2011 @ 20:29:42

      Maegan, thank you very much for responding again. Now I understand. Yeah, I don’t believe in absolutes, except when it is about harm/hatred to another. That is the only thing I don’t feel can be justified.
      Today, a kid went after another kid because the first one did something to him. HE was the one that was caught (not the first time). What he did was physical in a manner to hurt the other: THAT is just something i will not tolerate. In those cases only, in my mind, there is only one right way: Mine, which is do no violence to another. Opinions and POV’s…we are here, we need to hear.


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