Updated: Aug 19
All of us have unique networks of family, friends, and colleagues into which we spread information, emotion, thoughts, cares, and ideas. But we also potentially spread disinformation, gossip, and negative emotions such as anger and fear.
Courageous RI is partly about being aware of what we are injecting into our networks. But more importantly, it is about proactively spreading the idea that there is a crucial need for difficult conversations between people and groups who disagree.
Courageous conversations leverage skills related to media literacy such as verifying information, checking our biases, and respect for others. These conversations are courageous because it takes audacity, bravery, and determination to begin and maintain a conversation that entails high emotion, makes people uncomfortable, and forces us to question what we see, hear, and believe. However, there is a payoff for this courage. Starting a courageous conversation is like dropping a pebble in a pond; it has far-reaching effects that ripple throughout our networks and continue through the networks of those we reach and teach.
One powerful element of our networks is those that look up to us, those we teach and those we mentor. As teachers, whether in the classroom or in the community, formal or informal, we have a unique opportunity to create particularly strong ripples among those eager to learn. I am a professor at the undergraduate college level. Courageous RI and courageous conversations are particularly important to me because I have a continually growing network of students (my pond) who are typically a captive audience. They come to my classroom with open minds, are experiencing key intellectual growth, and will soon be entering the full-time workforce and become active members of their communities. Some of them will soon be parents and teachers themselves. I have the opportunity to create strong and long-lasting ripples.
I often ask myself, how do I best prepare my students to enter an argumentative, fragmented world? How can I teach them to help heal divides and participate with positive impact? A key way I can do this is by teaching my students civil discourse (particularly online). Courageous RI and courageous conversations have offered topics and tools that I can use to create lessons for my classroom that, I hope, will ripple from me to my students, to their families and networks, and beyond into the future workplaces and communities they join. It is a small part of a movement we need to create to help mend the broken places in our society. Teaching courageous conversations in a classroom safe place, where I can readily facilitate and mediate, is an invaluable way to begin to ripple.
Where in your life do you enact the role of a teacher or mentor? Where might there be a pond waiting for you to toss in a courageous pebble? Teaching ponds are a fruitful and easy place to (begin to) practice and master your Courageous RI skills.