Respectful Dissonance: Why We Need Gracious Debate This Election Season

With the election looming ever closer, and the rhetoric amping up on both sides, Jeff Van Fleet, Lighthouse President and CEO, has some sage advice: remember the Golden Rule. 

Are we allowing for respectful and intellectual debate in our lives, in our families, and in our workforce?
Even though we may disagree with one candidate or another, are we still teaching and reinforcing with each other basic life principles. 

As Halloween is approaching, so too is this year’s Presidential election.  Hmmm.  There seems to be a lot in common between these two events, wouldn’t you say?

We are all trying to look behind the masks of these candidates and trying to figure out who they really are.  And frankly, the characters these masks portray are pretty ugly and scary.  At Halloween, we give people some slack because we believe they are playing a role that is different than their true self.  With politicians, I’m not so sure.

As I think about this election, I wonder what our children are learning.  So I decided to Google it and see what I could find.  Here are a few snippets from an article from the Washington Post about how one teacher is using this opportunity to teach the students about the election.

“Guess what we heard in the campaign speech today, Mom?” said Eitan, my 8-year-old son, dropping his olive-green backpack and recorder in the passenger’s side of the front seat of our SUV.  He plopped down next his two brothers in the back seat and cleared his throat.

“Always stand on principle even if you stand alone.”

Such lofty language, I thought to myself. Which candidate said that?

“I liked the rebuttal even better,” quipped Yuval, my 10-year-old. He ruffled pages in his notebook to find a quote he’d written down.

“I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past. I will make sure that America is safe.”

Looking in the rearview mirror, I locked eyes with my boys.

“Donald Trump?!”

The back seat erupted into rolling laughter.

“No, Mom!”

“John Adams — and Thomas Jefferson!”

Ahhh.  They were quoting from the speeches of the presidential election of 1800, when incumbent John Adams, a Federalist, faced off with Vice President Thomas Jefferson, a Democratic-Republican.

That was the solution that their teacher had come up with to teach her young students about the elections — without teaching this presidential election.  “I felt that some of the messages coming out of this campaign were inappropriate for kids ages 8 to 10,” said Laura Pasek, a third- and fourth-grade teacher at Hebrew Day School in Ann Arbor, Mich. “And their methods of engagement did not model respectful and intellectual debate.”

Take a minute and read that last sentence again.  That is great insight and a great opportunity for us to reflect upon ourselves and our behavior.  Are we allowing for respectful and intellectual debate in our lives, in our families, and in our workforce?  Even though we may disagree with one candidate or another, are we still teaching and reinforcing with each other basic life principles.

At Lighthouse, I like to use the phrase “respectful dissonance” because I want everyone to know that we want to hear their passion, we want them to have a cause, we want them to fight for what they feel is right, but we want them to do that with respect.  We want them to listen and try to understand where the other person is coming from.  Too often, we get going fast and furious with our own ideas — and we don’t pause and take time to listen and learn from others.  I know I am guilty of this myself sometimes.  But I know that when I have my head on straight, I actually do the right thing.  And not only that, I encourage those around me to correct me if they see me acting otherwise.

So I ask you, are you open to others opinions — even if you don’t agree?  Are you willing to stretch yourself by listening to others, trying to understand their feelings, and allowing them to help you keep your own head on straight?  Whether you are discussing the Presidential candidates, an idea at work, or a personal family matter, does your method of engagement model respectful and intellectual debate?

Come November 8, please take the opportunity that this free and great country offers you — to get out and vote.  In the meantime, I challenge you to talk with someone who has a different opinion than you.  Stretch yourself.  It’s not about you changing your mind or them changing their mind, but instead the respectful conversation that will open doors for many future opportunities.

Have a great month.  We will talk soon.

Keep having fun,

Jeff Van Fleet
President and CEO
Lighthouse Technologies, Inc.
Software Testing | Quality Assurance Consulting | Oracle EBS Consulting

{ 0 comments… add one }

Leave a Comment

PMIASQIEEESoftware Engineering InstituteInternational Software Testing Qualifications Board