IP Weekly #4
One of the great pleasures of being an educator and a parent is helping teenagers interrogate their own thinking. In classes or at home when they assert a viewpoint we should help teenagers seek other sources of information so that their opinions are well informed. This practice has never been more important as the news sources teenagers often rely upon as they form opinions become less and less reliable. None of this presupposes that an opinion asserted by a student is inherently wrong, it is simply good practice and if we can build that good practice within them at a young age they are more likely to maintain that practice as adults.
When presented alternative views by parents, teachers or just by living life teenagers often change their minds. Actually, we all may be likely to change our minds over time as life in general tends to change us all. There is, however, a difference between the evolution that aging brings us and the search for the opposing argument. In both cases the change that may occur is exciting as change, no matter how difficult, leads us all to new understandings about the way we view people and the world.
Lately, though, I have seen some interesting takes on change that have disturbed me. For the past few years I have seen the search for unpopular, insensitive or offensive social media posts unfold for prominent people seeking new positions. This has happened, is happening, in the political arena, the entertainment field and in sports as well. Trolls, those who scour the internet in search of such fodder, find old posts and make sure to uncover them in an attempt to embarrass someone or in some cases force them to withdraw from public life. Some of these posts are foolish and offensive, displaying a terrible lapse in judgement. Maybe those posts demonstrate a real opinion or maybe at 17 or 18 years old a teenager who would later become a professional athlete made a really stupid decision. We need to figure out what a reasonable penalty is for such a behavior especially when there isn’t any other corroborating evidence to support that one Tweet or video as representative of how someone feels. While I believe culturally we need to address this, I would argue the trolls are the problem and not the person who made this particular mistake, this is not my greatest concern.
My larger concern is what happens when we seek to punish someone after they have changed their viewpoint. What happens when we attempt to punish someone after they have grown, after they have sought out the other viewpoint and adapted? Politics is rife with this sort of behavior and trying to destroy the opponent for a statement made 10, 20, 30 years ago is a bloodsport. Of course I believe unpopular or out of touch statements are fair game for questioning, but the questions should be connected to how the change in viewpoint came about to say nothing of the praise for someone who has changed. In life, and politics should resemble real life, we should celebrate change. Instead, too often, we ignore it and stay focused on anything that can paint our opponent as something they used to be.
Yes, we are too eager to cancel someone, anyone in our society and we are allowing those who operate in the shadows searching out the mistakes people, all of us make, to control us all. We have demonstrated an inability to tell the difference between an error, foolish, hurtful behavior from a view that’s no longer held. These very different events cannot all have the same punishment yet it seems they do. I often write about the importance of being kind to each other, being tolerant of opposing views, engaging in healthy debate and finding ways to coexist in the world understanding that we aren’t all the same. Admittedly it’s hard to preach kindness when too many in the darkness of the internet are hellbent on hurting people just for fun.
See you next week, IP.