Being Pragmatic: Difficult, but Necessary
By Dale Schlundt, M.A.
The very last thing anyone enjoys doing is to concede that there is an error in their own beliefs. Feeling that we currently know what is correct and true is important to most individuals. Despite there being very few absolute truths in life, the greatest fundamental lesson one can learn is the ability to question if there are fallacies in what we take as the correct answers to the challenges in our society.
There is a time every semester in my classes that I cover the framing of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. As elements of those documents are re-interpreted when facing the quandaries of new eras, it lends itself well to giving students the opportunity to have a voice in this task. Thus, I facilitate a debate questioning how we stay true to the Second Amendment, while creating a safer society under the current daunting context of gun rights issues. My purpose is to create awareness of their Constitutional rights and hopes for the student to be able to contribute to the dialogue that will lead to improvements in our society.
Yet, every once in a while I will have a student comment that the debate is futile, as no one seems to change their mind based on the ideas of others. Although rare, the very first time this comment arose, my internal dialogue sought a quick scholarly answer. “It is to create awareness and a more in depth understanding”. Indeed it is, but that does not address that student’s dilemma. I have thought about this valid point at length, leaving me with an even more significant question. Do we live in a culture that promotes the search for errors in our own long held judgments and the merit in other’s?
We watch society debate various issues with proposed solutions that many times seem to be slight variations of the status quo, dictated by our political ideology. How many of us place blame on the socio-economic gaps in society on the same sole causes, contributing to the proliferation of narrow minded policies that do not result in upward mobility? We often hear the desire for stimulating America’s economy, yet while arguing this point we are weekly patrons of retail stores that supply primarily foreign imported goods. As we discuss defeating terrorism, how many of us rightfully advocate military action against those who commit these crimes, while failing to acknowledge that rhetoric portraying all young Muslim Americans as terrorists may lead those individuals to question their loyalty to the U.S.? The overarching question, are we a society that can objectively acknowledge all of the aforementioned and other contradictions that are prevalent in our society? As they are present in every society, is our response to simply justify them or to advocate heightened awareness?
Benjamin Franklin’s thoughts towards the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention in 1787 were, “For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged by better information or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise. It is therefore that the older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgment, and to pay more respect to the judgment of others.” The ability to look in the mirror and objectively look at one’s own beliefs as well as others is a rare asset. As an individual who places significant weight on gun ownership, I look forward to learning of the new proposals for creating a safer society. As for the concern over the lack of utility in the classroom debates that one or two of my students have voiced, I now offer the same valuable lesson to all of my classes as a whole. “For those who feel no one has considered your proposals, even in the slightest, I question have you considered someone else’s?” Let us promote a pragmatic culture.
Dale Schlundt holds a Master’s Degree in Adult Education with a concentration in American History from the University of Texas at San Antonio. Dale has taught at Northwest Vista College, Our Lady of the Lake University, and is currently a faculty member at Palo Alto College.
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