Education Opinion

Peter DeWitt’s Bold and Audacious Invitation

By Jill Berkowicz & Ann Myers — April 27, 2014 4 min read
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Blogging gives authors an opportunity to share their thinking with an audience of readers. Bloggers’ audiences grow, usually, as readers find that the voice of the blogger supports their own thinking. Of course, there are always those who read to find out what a respected counterpoint to their beliefs is saying. But mostly, readers follow bloggers who represent how they feel, or who say what they may think yet dare not say. We haven’t said it before but we appreciate all of you who read and follow Leadership360.

The relationship between the blogger and the follower is one from which thought is provoked and interests spurred. But, bloggers and followers rarely have a true conversation. Blog readers can feel validated after reading another blogger’s work, and/or can be opened to a new way of thinking. This is no different from how we choose the newspapers we read or the TV stations we watch. It is always most comfortable to listen to and read from those with whom we feel akin.

In our blogs we have tried to raise questions without taking sides and we have never dismissed other views. We have shared our questions on topics such as having deeper conversations with faculty, using coaching in the evaluation process, the challenges of poverty, the value of civility, managing change, learning from difficult situations, awareness of challenges, and all issues of leadership. We have been less controversial than many but we hope prevocational and thought provoking nonetheless. Our hope was to raise issues and awareness rather become polarizing. Maybe it’s because our leadership focus draws us to consider what it is like in someone else’s shoes. So we raise the questions and assert perspectives intended to be helpful to the field.

This is a time, in our world and in the field of education, in which there are strongly expressed divergent opinions. Identities form around who you oppose and racket rather than rapport is sought. We are living in a time of extremes. We have pulled apart and engage, not to solve or resolve, but to win. We need to expand the conversations, to invite others in and to remember we are a community with diversity, not warring factions.

So it was with hopeful excitement that we read our fellow blogger Peter DeWitt’s blog post, Education: Is There No Common Ground in which he wrote, “... I’m trying to find common ground with people I do not always agree with...” Peter is inviting people who have expressed opinions that are different from his to, from time to time, be guest bloggers. And he has invited his followers, should they agree or disagree with these divergent views, to comment. Peter is inviting the much needed conversation. He is creating a space that holds possibility for finding common ground.

This is no easy task. The holder of that space must be willing to hold the tension that opposing views present. Even more difficult, the holder of that space must know how not to lose himself. We are confident that Peter can do that. Inviting all voices into a conversation does not mean we need to exclude our own. The holder of the space must be willing and able to hold divergent thinking from a place of respect. There is a place for each of the divergent thoughts and beliefs. They bring clarity and passion forward. But without someone strong enough to stand in the middle, with open ears and arms, there is no bringing people together, no finding our way to common ground.

Divergent views are essential. There is no position that is free from bias or perspective. All voices have an insight to offer and should be heard. Conversations require mediation and facilitation and begin with deep and respectful listening. The blog as the medium allows time for reflective thought before answering in quick response. It isn’t the best medium for a true conversation but it is a brilliant step forward to use this medium to bring divergent thinking to an audience that is most likely of one mind.

Peter has stepped forward to innovate. He is taking a medium that has been designed as primarily a one way conversation with room for a response and attempting to create possibility for it to be the place where a conversation can begin. He has offered to step up and be the holder of that space, and is inviting a potential for hardened positions to become permeable.

Perhaps this is the beginning of a larger conversation...one in which a summit can evolve. As a nation, we are more impassioned by the fight than by the common ground which makes us great and allows our divergence to become transformative creative energy. While the oppositional voices reign, our children are waiting for us to lead forward. We will read and participate in Peter’s blog journey to create and hold the space he describes. We look forward to it growing into a larger conversation that will grow all this heated discourse into valuable educational solutions. Kudos to you, Peter.

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The opinions expressed in Leadership 360 are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.