How to create a safe space for real debate in the classroom.
I wonder if Generation Z's attraction to wokism is connected to the fact that they were born into a post-9/11 world. It strikes me how much leftists' reaction to George Floyd's murder parallels conservatives' reaction to 9/11. You have the same Pure Good versus Pure Evil worldview. The same insistence that anything short of blind unquestioning support is siding with the enemy. The same assumption that everyone in the perpetrator's "tribe" (Muslims then, whites now) shares in the guilt. The same condescending contempt for basic democratic decencies. The same surrender of the media. The same way too many liberals who should have known better got sucked in. (For just one example of how The West Wing went full neocon after 9/11, check out Toby's "They'll like us when we win!" diatribe.)
That attitude was supposed to give us (to use a term that's a favorite of both Sean Hannity and AOC) "moral clarity". Instead it gave us the pettiness of "freedom fries", the disaster of "We have to stop Saddam from giving weapons he doesn't have to terrorists he doesn't support", the evil of "enhanced interrogation techniques". Wokism could be leading us down a similar road, while insisting that there's no moral equivalence because they're the good guys. Which would be another parallel.
These are sane and smart ideas however, unless phones and other machines with recording technology were banned in the classrooms, students will still be afraid that their statements, if they offend the sensibilities of another, will be recorded and shared on social media.
Silencing, not only of students but of our neighbors, etc.. , will not recede until we do not penalize others by posting videos--recorded without the speaker's permission--in attempt to publicly shame.
It's good that you're able to create real debate inside the classroom, but you're missing the futility factor. You say debate is necessary for "democracy". Unfortunately debate and choice have exactly zero effect. In every "election" we hear fake "choices" during the campaign, followed instantly by broken promises as all politicians converge to the same agenda. What is this "democracy" that we supposedly need to preserve? It's just a word.
I agree with the caveat expressed by @thepassionatereader, but I'd go further: Without extirpating some of their most fundamental ideas, it seems unlikely that you will get discussion that pushes the Overton window to the right and not have anybody fink. The kids have been taught that these ideas are not merely evil, but 𝑑𝑎𝑛𝑔𝑒𝑟𝑜𝑢𝑠. Violent. Physically harmful. It'd be their civic duty to fink.
I hope I'm wrong, but I'm guessing that if this hasn't happened yet it's because the ideas expressed haven't strayed too far from the progressive consensus -- at least as far as anything that really matters. Meaning, I can imagine people giving a hearing to an antivaxxer or a gun enthusiast and simply pitying the benighted individual, but somebody who favors the Texas abortion bill? Or who believes that sex is binary and immutable? Or that there's no burning need to do anything about racism in the US? I can't the see the other students restraining themselves.
TY (thank You). Both of You for both this essay and Your enlightened views on teaching. TYTY. :)
Straw women; steel women?