What Mrs. Mullen’s class can teach us about political discussion

A sculpture of Socrates in the Louvre Museum in Paris.

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A sculpture of Socrates in the Louvre Museum in Paris.

Story by Cade Culbertson, Staff Writer

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Whether it is a family or social gathering, there has always been an unspoken rule that certain topics such as politics shall never be discussed. This rule has become even more common ever since the 2016 election, which has torn families and friendships apart over differences in political opinions.

Although barring anyone from muttering a single word about politics may prevent uncomfortable conversations and others walking away in rage, it does not solve the underlying problem of division in our country. Instead of hiding their political differences, people should be open about expressing their different views to others.

The main problem, however, is not entirely that people refuse to talk about difficult subjects, but that people seem to unfortunately be unable to have a civilized discussion and instead, it turns into a full scale argument of how the other person is wrong.

A perfect example of this is congress, which only has an approval rating of 13 percent and it’s no mystery as to why. People are simply fed up with politicians being unproductive and constantly bickering with each other. This problem, however, exists not only on Capitol Hill, but in everyday society as well. For instance, if one were to turn on the news, many times a panel is invited on to discuss certain topics, but the situation soon spirals into a heated debate instead of a mature discussion.

Unfortunately, it is near impossible to force politicians to behave this way, but if the everyday person were to more openly engage in civilized discussions with people they don’t agree with, it would surely start to heal the divides in this country. This is a key concept in what is called the Socratic Method, which is where Socratic seminars come from.

This may be familiar to those who are currently in Mrs. Mullen’s English class. Once every week, students are required to find an article that they feel is worthy of discussion. In one of these seminars, students sit in a circle and discuss different topics with everyone else and express their own views on various subjects. Unlike a debate, there is no arguing or screaming at one’s opponent because nobody is viewed as being an opponent in the first place.

The whole point of one of these seminars is for people to share their views on a certain topic and hear possibly conflicting views from their fellow students. It is essential in life to have discussions like this as it can clarify why certain people have conflicting views and can help people see things from a different perspective.

If people were to actively have more discussions with people that they don’t see eye to eye with in ways similar to that of a Socratic seminar, then it would become far easier for people to understand each other. This would ultimately lead to a society where people are no longer afraid to talk about difficult or touchy subject, which would result in more things getting done on a government level.

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