It’s Pretty Hard to Learn from Angry Teachers
Well, we’ve arrived at the end of yet another weird week.
I hope someone is keeping track of the events that have transpired every week since the first of the year—2020 is one for the record books and I’d love to see some kind of chart that gives us a week-by-week breakdown of the crazy.
I’ve been busier than ever this week. We have a ton of awesome new Tuttle Twins content coming down the pipeline in the next several months, and as I was working on one particular project today, I got to thinking about the way that we treat people and how we are exercising our stewardship of the knowledge that we’ve gained through experience, hard work, and study.
I’m pretty comfortable making the claim that most of the people who subscribe to these emails know a thing or two about the way the world works, and have some really great ideas about how to make it work better. I’m fairly sure that just about any random sampling of Tuttle Twins readers and their families could solve most of the problems we are facing right now without resorting to the use of force or coercion.
I like to think about the exercise that the twins and their friends and families do at the end of The Tuttle Twins and the Fate of the Future—where everyone divides into teams and tries to imagine a society that is governed in a more peaceful and prosperous way. I wish elected officials and activists would do that in real life.
As I was thinking about good men and women who have overcome difficulty, or showed strength of character or changed the world for the better (that’s a pretty big hint about one of our new projects) I was thinking that one of the traits that they all share is that they try to show compassion and kindness to others—even, often, their enemies.
I remember a few months ago when I felt troubled by how divided people were—boy was I naive! I had no idea how much worse it could get!
We’ve now allowed fear, media manipulation, and differing interpretations of data to divide us into so many categories and subcategories that people who once would have considered themselves mostly philosophically aligned are now hardly recognizable to one another.
I’ve always known that fear is a terrible motivator, and that government and media have mastered the art of using it for their gain—heck, I even wrote a book about it—but these last few months have shown me just how bad it can get.
I’m a natural problem-solver. For as long as I can remember, finding ways to fix things that aren’t working properly or efficiently has been important to me—it’s part of why I got into the line of work that I’m in. The world sure doesn’t seem to be running efficiently or properly right now, and my mind often dwells on what I can do within my area of influence to make things better.
Today I’ve been thinking that we could all benefit from the lessons of the world-changers and problem-overcomers of the past. We know a lot of really important stuff. A lot of us understand the things that are happening right now much more clearly than most people. So how are we sharing that information with the afraid and uninformed?
Are we leaving disparaging comments on social media threads? Are we making up rude nicknames for people who don’t hold the same opinion on wearing face masks as we do? Are we teaching? Or are we just angrily assuming that everyone who doesn’t think like we do must be choosing to be on the wrong side of the debate?
As I’ve observed and engaged in social media conversations for the last few weeks, I’ve become certain of something that I’ve suspected for a long time—people really know nothing about the way that government works. They don’t know what the limits on their elected representatives are supposed to be. They don’t understand anything about economics. They don’t even know what their rights are—much less how to defend them. They don’t know anything beyond what they’ve heard growing up in the public school system, or what they’ve learned watching the news.
But we do. And I keep coming back to the idea that no matter how angry we are with the current state of affairs, or how unbelievable and frustrating it is that the general population is so woefully ignorant to things that they really have no excuse to be ignorant about, we know things—real, life changing, important things—that other people would be better off knowing also.
And so I think we need to teach them.
Even when we are really angry with them.
Even when we see them as part of the problem.
I chose to write The Tuttle Twins and the Golden Rule because I thought it was important to teach kids about the dangers of aggressive foreign policy and the reality of blowback. But there’s another lesson in the book that is more traditionally understood: being mean or hurtful to people is never the right thing to do.
A lot of us didn’t always know the things that we know now. Imagine if we were just getting mentally prepared to experience our “awakening” at this time in history. Would we be more likely to align ourselves with those who disparage and demean us for the things we don’t understand, or with those who welcome us and teach us ideas we’ve never before encountered?
Times of great upheaval can also be times of great learning. We could potentially miss out on a lot of opportunities to change people’s hearts and minds for the better if we aren’t able to push past the anger and frustration we feel and instead adopt the role of patient teacher.
I will always remember when the folks in South Carolina “booed” Ron Paul for talking about the Golden Rule in one of the presidential debates. I don’t ever want to risk being someone who gets so caught up in my beliefs that I forget about my humanity and the importance of treating others with respect and kindness.
There aren’t many things the average person can do right now to make things better aside from continuing to focus on our families and educating those within our reach. But maybe if we started looking at our neighbors and strangers online more as people within our reach and less like our enemy we could make things just a little better.
It’s hard, I know. Especially when their ignorance feeds the fire that seems to be consuming so many things we care about right now. But on the other end of every online exchange is a real person who is probably pretty afraid and confused. Behind every masked—or unmasked—face is a person who thinks they’re doing the right thing and who has fears and worries and confusion about this weird time we’re all suddenly trying to navigate.
Maybe just a little more kindness and a little more patience wouldn’t hurt right now. A little more Golden Rule and a little less booing. What could it hurt?