Letters to Irshad – Letter 2

Shades of Grey: Hear, Not Fear, Different Perspectives

5 min read

Dear Irshad,

In your book, you stated: 

“You won’t change someone’s opinion by tearing into them with verifiable facts. It’ll be because you loved them enough to wonder where they are coming from, and because they trusted that your questions spring from a desire to challenge yourself.” 

I mentioned in my first letter that what I wanted most from this series is for people to read these letters. I believe this is a topic that we should all learn about from our youth to the eldest within our communities, but I have concerns relating to the way it’s currently being taught; at least in many Universities across the US.

How is it being delivered within K-12 education though? The global dialogue that supervenes these divisive subjects, as seen in Op-ed’s, in comment sections, and on social media, has left me uneasy with regard to how this content is being covered. 

I received an email a couple of weeks back from the school board my children attend, informing parents of an upcoming health unit to be taught – Strand D. This is to allow parents an opportunity to remove their children from these lessons. It’s not something I agree with in principal, but my opinion is that this out is rooted at least in part, from a lack of understanding of what educators are teaching their children or the dangers of their child missing out on this learning. 

Irshad, what I see happening in the future is a similar withdrawal from content being offered to exempt their child from this very subject we are discussing here and for similar reasons; a lack of faith in how these topics are being delivered to our youth.

We want matters of significance in our communities discussed. That is what is most important and it’s critical that we move forward with a shared vision of the delivery of that content. If we are not careful about how these subjects are taught however, parents will continue to remove their children from discussions which will leave them at a disadvantage as they enter a very diverse workforce within the cultural mosaics of our broader communities. 

On the topic of our health and physical education, if one student learns consent and another is exempt from these lessons, what have we really gained from teaching the curriculum at all if one doesn’t know their rights and the other their boundaries?

Irshad, if we want students, parents, and leaders within society to understand the complexity of any issue, we have to be able to have honest and safe conversations without fear of both delivery and judgement; plain and simple. In your book and on your YouTube channel, there are many examples of people displaying Moral Courage (hear, not fear, different perspectives), in their conversations with someone whose views are different than their own. Trying to understand them, showing compassion, and letting them know through listening and a genuine desire to hear them, that they are not there to attack or change them. 

If we teach our youth these methods of discourse, we empower our children to take a step back to make sure they understand why someone said something, to get to know their Other, and to rationally share with them how they feel about the given topic or how their actions have affected them. Now, let us teach them to research an issue before taking a “side”. I put the word side in quotations because often viewpoints are actually the same – it’s the approach that differs. 

This local issue and how our global discussions all tie into these conversations is complex. I’ve looked at facts and opinions on a broader scale, and I have tried to separate my attachments to the local subject matter. My opinions will of course differ, Irshad, because I do know some of those involved but in the end, I also have a good understanding of the roles everyone involved plays in protecting the best interests of our children and how that influences this discussion as well. 

In the end, I find myself in the middle.

I am very social in many of my opinions and beliefs but a centrist in general. It’s not an easy place to dwell because people want you to choose a side, but I see more greys than colours Irshad and to me, that’s because there isn’t much that is truly black and white in this world as issues – like humans, are plurals as you have stated – multi-faceted. 

Recently, a teacher was encouraging their students to write letters to address the issue we are discussing here. Great! I say this with a bit of a cringe though because once again I wonder. Has the teacher let their judgements on the subject be known before their students can develop an opinion of their own? Are youth being encouraged to do their own research before voicing their opinions on important matters; even if it involves people they know or even care about? How in depth has the teacher followed this matter? As a class, have they listened to follow up interviews and commentary together, studied related global affairs, and talked as a group about their thoughts? Have they reached out to those involved to hear firsthand their side of the story and to learn a little about them as humans and their roles? Personally, I love knowing that my children are getting involved in important issues because this is encouraged at home.

I have so many questions and a great deal to learn, Irshad. Within these letters you’ll find my opinions now through my first 48. Who knows how the next 48 will change my world views. 

I’ll close this letter with this quote that you included in your book: 

“People are only going to absorb facts when they’re communicated from a source that they respect, from a source who they perceive has respect for them.”

Katherine Cramer, University of Wisconsin

In your writing, interviews, and through your work, you instantly and genuinely show the respect you have for your audience as you engage us in these conversations.

Be well and safe.

Your friends,
Larry and Finnegan

Previous: Letter 1 | Next: Letter 3

The opinions shared within this series do not necessarily represent the views of all INSE members, volunteers, or that of it’s partners. We do however, see this platform as a space for open dialogue – within reason, built on respect for the plurality of opinions within our communities.

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