As one trimester ends, and another is about to begin, I’m going over my notes for what I want to say to my high school social studies students on the first day of the new term. I realized that these goals are not unique to me, but likely shared in some fashion by nearly everyone trying to do the same job across the country. Most everyone has heard a speech like this from a teacher, but it appears that too many forget about it when they leave high school.
Maybe you or someone you know might be able to use a refresher, so here they are:
1. Intelligent people disagree with each other sometimes. Just because someone doesn’t share your opinion doesn’t make them stupid. Appreciate those who disagree with you, and are willing to engage in discussion. Their dissent will make you analyze your own thoughts, understand theirs, and you will get better because of it. Also, always leave room for the possibility that they might be right.
2. An argument is always stronger when backed up with facts, data, and logic. Don’t just recite a tweet, bumpers sticker, or meme. These are for the intellectually lazy. Smart people realize that in most cases where people disagree there is nuance and many shades of grey.
3. Listen, don’t just wait for your turn to talk. If all you do is try to interrupt and shout over people, no one is really going to want to engage in meaningful conversation with you. Everyone loses when that happens. Keep your mind open to the idea that you often will learn something from sources that you did not expect to.
4. Grow. If you still have the same opinions on everything at 40 as you did at 18, you probably haven’t put very much thought into them. One of the greatest things a person can say is, “You know…I’ve thought about it, and I think I have changed my mind.”
5. The problem is not someone who disagrees with you, it is those that don’t care enough to try and form an opinion. Respect anyone who loves their country enough to participate in making it better.
6. If you think about your education only in terms of the test score, the grade, the G.P.A., getting into college, and getting a job, you are missing the beauty of it. Smarter is just better. The jokes are funnier, the songs have more meaning, and the world doesn’t confuse and frustrate you so much. Not to mention, smart and interesting people prefer talking to smart and interesting people. Learn to appreciate the beauty and value of learning.
7. No matter how you approach life, the time is going to fly. We might as well have fun and live with vigor and curiosity while we can.
8. There are a lot of interesting people and things out there to discover, but you will probably have to look up from your phone to do it.
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