Revise opinion board posts to build positive environment

Quinn Christensen

More stories from Quinn Christensen

Empathy and the ability to see from others’ point of view will not only help build an argument, but it will make school a much more constructive and pleasant environment for all.

Quinn Christensen

Empathy and the ability to see from others’ point of view will not only help build an argument, but it will make school a much more constructive and pleasant environment for all.

During the election, the opinion board was crowded with student voice. Posts on both ends of the political spectrum sparked discussions that might not have otherwise happened. These discussions resulted in valuable learning experiences for students, but also caused frustration and hurt feelings when post writers and those responding didn’t feel as though they were being heard.

Since the election, the Opinion board has returned to its typical state. It gathers a few posts per week, and students will stop by and read them if they happen to notice something new. But even as politics flood the news, November’s crowds seem like they have disappeared.

During this lull, it has become apparent that while an empty opinion board may be a peaceful one, productive discussions are less common. But why should it have to be one or the other? Students should be more active on the opinion board, but revise their posts for clarity and respect before posting them. This would turn the Opinion board into a useful discussion tool, which it has always had the potential to be, as opposed to a venue for shouting matches.

Empathy is often overlooked when expressing opinions, and it’s a shame. At a school that prides itself on teaching students logical thinking, empathy, and persuasion, continuing to post insensitive and one-sided pieces detailing personal opinions fall short of SPA’s expectations to touch the minds and hearts of other members of the community.

Revising opinions posts to make them more empathetic demonstrates respect for the reader, which in turn encourages them to listen. Typically, when writing an opinion — whether it’s going to be posted on the board or published in the Rubicon — the end goal is to persuade the reader. People are more likely to respond to criticism when the opposing viewpoint is expressed with respect for other perspectives. One way that students can accomplish this is to read the original post carefully and respond to the points discussed within the piece as opposed to the writer’s argument as a whole. Presenting the argument in a respectful manner, appealing to the emotions of the reader, and challenging specific points logically are far more effective techniques for persuasion than directly attacking their opinion.

Revising opinions posts to make them more empathetic demonstrates respect for the reader, which in turn encourages them to listen. ”

Secondly, there’s the matter of creating a positive environment. Disrespectful posts on the Opinion Board build a community where people shout over each other instead of having productive discussions. This childlike chatter is far from constructive, and it’s the opposite of what SPA teaches students to do. It could also be hindering students from posting their opinions. If everyone phrased their opinions respectfully, not only would the discussions that did occur become more productive, but more of these conversations would take place because students would be more willing to publicly post their opinions.

The opinion board is a great tool, and it’s clearly one that students are still learning how to use. The current use goes against not only SPA’s  philosophy, but also the environment that students have worked so hard to create for each other. So, next time students fire up a fresh document intended for the opinion board or grab a neon post it, they should think before they write. And then think after they write. And then write again – this time checking to make sure that their argument is rational, calm, and respectful of everyone in the SPA community. Empathy and the ability to see from others’ point of view will not only help build an argument, but it will make school a much more constructive and pleasant environment for all.