A couple of weeks ago, over on my Green Mangoes Blog, I wrote a post titled What would Bono do?. In it, I talked about how cooperation and change does not usually come about through attacks or name-calling, but rather by finding a common ground and having empathy for those with whom you are working.
This post is along those same lines, and I am writing it because lately I’ve noticed a lot of anger coming out of some members of the unschooling community. People with whom I agree but whose methods in communicating to those who disagree have become increasingly provocational. Their anger is sustained, unyielding and brooks no discussion or compromise.
Which of course means it is also completely ineffective in its’ purpose, which, if you ask, is to make people think and ultimately change their minds about whatever issue is being put forth.
It surprises me when unschoolers behave this way, because unschooling parents have almost all been on the receiving end of such righteous indignation from people who believe that we are ruining our child’s chances of success by not sending them to school. And what happens when someone lays such an accusation at our feet? When they call us horrible parents? Megalomaniacs? Do we listen carefully and consider what they have said? No we do not. We dismiss them, or if we are in a less patient mood, lash back. We defend. We become even more dedicated to our own point of view.
Why then, are unschoolers displaying their own versions of righteous anger and expecting different results? (I know, I know, because unlike those jerks who call us bad parents, we unschoolers are RIGHT in our opinions! Sigh.)
Righteous anger is all about making someone else wrong, not about fomenting change or understanding. It is completely self-involved and self-important. It is not empathetic. And of course we are all guilty of it at one time or another.
Empathy and understanding are much more effective tools in “reaching across the aisle” so to speak. They are also much more difficult, because apparently for most of us the most important thing is browbeating someone until they admit that we are right and they are completely and 100% wrong.
But how often does that really happen?
So here is my plea to all the unschoolers out there. Whether you are discussing education, or religion, or whatever the issue at hand may be, try to understand the other side before you launch a full out assault. If it’s just you and your like-minded friends in the room, then have at it (god knows I do). But if changing hearts and minds is REALLY what you want? The vituperative approach will get you nowhere. Believe me, I’ve tried. Not to mention that it is exhausting to maintain such a high level of animosity for any length of time.
The Dalai Lama says this about anger:
If your mind is dominated by anger, you will lose the greatest part of your human intelligence-wisdom that is the ability to discern between good and evil. Anger is one of the greatest problems that we have to face in the world today. In the course of our daily human relations, if we speak straight forwardly and in a reasoned way, anger is not necessary. Any point of difference can be discussed. Whenever we cannot justify ourselves through reason, that is when anger rises. It is when reason ends that anger begins. In my experience, even if anger gives us the strength to reach or to respond in the event of conflict, the energy it gives us is blind and difficult to control. Anger is a sign of weakness.