Saturday, April 24, 2010

Coexist XXIX - Toward a More Civil Discourse

I have been writing a story based on the events of May 4, 1970 at Kent State. I was a young teen then, but remember all the protests and concerns of young people at that time. It was good thing, but often they were misunderstood and, of course, the tragedy at Kent State was an unnecessary response to peaceful protests and innocent young people. I digress. I'm concerned about where the "freedom of speech" is going when you can now join a Facebook group that calls for the death of our President. I see very young teens I know joining these types of groups in response to some radical and fanatical thinking and trends that may be getting out of control regarding our government. My concern is not that opposing viewpoints are being heard, but that we are moving away from civility and respect for our government and each other as citizens of this still free country. I wonder what it is like for young people to hear and see all the media they encounter now whether they seek it out or not. Facebook is certainly full of political opinions, and these young teens may be excited to express themselves in this way. But I wonder if they realize what they are really saying. Are we on a downward spiral?

"We live in a climate ripe with noise. Media outlets and 24-hour news cycles mean that everyone with access to a computer has access to a megaphone to broadcast their views. Never before in human history has an opinion had the opportunity to reach so many so quickly without regard to its accuracy or appropriateness.
It is difficult to hear anything when everyone has a megaphone. For young people trying to learn how to speak and listen, this is an especially complicated business."

Kate Shuster Ph.D
from Teaching Tolerance spring 2010

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