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Disagreement: a windy road or a straight path?
Over the past few weeks (okay, 18 months now), our country has been engaged in deep discourse. And, the next few days seem to be creating even more anxiety.
With our United States elections just a few days away, I am reminded about the pathways of discourse. Now, it’s not just our election viewpoints that inform this discourse — it’s our actions towards each other, our behaviors, our attitudes and our feelings about each other that are also impacted. 
I recently read a blog post by the brilliant Gloria Ladson-Billings where she describes “being through“:
  • I am through indulging comments like, “everything is not about race,” when most times it is;
  • I am through explaining my style—hair, dress, swagger;
  • I am through being your teacher when I am not paid to do so;
She even begins her blog by mentioning that her post is probably a surprise to most folks who know her to be a scholar who engages in critical discourse around race and teaching and talking with other folks about race and racism. But, there comes a point when the scholarly pursuit — the talking about, around, through, upside and down — about race meets the every day lived experiences of race. “I’m through.” 
We, as adults, get frustrated when we witness children being so direct with each other. “I don’t like Petunia” or “Petunia is not my friend anymore!” or “I don’t want Petunia to sit with me.” (PS: Thanks to my colleague Alice Lucey who often uses “Petunia” in examples). As adults, we have learned to be kinder about feelings — a very important skill. But at what point did that kindness turn into avoidance? And, at what point does that avoidance turn into dysfunction? 
What does it mean to give feedback or engage in conversations that are straightforward and concise? Why have we as adults circumvented difficult conversations? 
And these past 16 months — the time in which candidates began announcing their interest in running for President of the United States — has been a real-time case study of disagreement. 
As often we should, I learn a great deal of children. One of my favorite ones is Kid President. Here, he has a great video about disagreeing that you should check out here
As we wind down (or up?) the election season, here are some helpful reflection questions you might want to consider. Then, have a conversation with your child(ren) about what it means to disagree. What does it mean to give feedback? What does it mean to receive feedback? What does it mean to approach “feedback as kindness”? Is it compassionate to inform others about the impact they have or is it easier to avoid these conversations? 
Wishing you the best as we head into the final few days before our election! 
  • How would you describe your experiences with discourse or disagreement leading up to the election?
  • What examples do you have from conversations with your children that made you think about discourse and disagreement?
  • What are challenges we, as adults, have around discourse? What are challenges we, as adults at Park School, have around discourse? (and, are they different questions?)
  • What do you wonder about discourse and your children? What are you curious about? These prompts might help: “I hope that my child(ren) learn that…..” or “I wonder if my child(ren) …..”
  • What strategies do you have moving forward to encourage and support healthy disagreement?

Peace and Park, 

Dr. T