LETTERS: Skills for effective interaction; reasoned debate is what universities do

Original story at http://gazette.com/letters-skills-for-effective-interaction-reasoned-debate-is-what-universities-do/article/1623307

Students have breakfast at Stonewall Jackson Middle School on Wednesday, March 7, 2018, in Charleston, W.Va. West Virginia’s teachers and students are reuniting in their classrooms after a walkout that closed schools statewide. State teachers celebrated on Tuesday as they won a 5 percent salary increase. (AP Photo/Robert Ray)

Skills for effective interaction

This is in response to the letter from sixth-grader Theo Tillman. I applaud him and his teachers as he eloquently expressed his views about gun violence. I encourage him and his teachers to continue to try to improve the educational environment in which they learn and teach. I would also like them to take these attempts a step further and address the classroom climate that sometimes produces those whose pent-up frustrations lead to violence.

Students are quick to identify those who are “dumb”, “strange” or different from themselves whether by looks, dress or actions. They rarely take time to get to know those students or explore the reasons for their initial perceptions. They tend to associate with those who are like themselves and exclude others.

I would encourage teachers to investigate the educational research on Cooperative Learning, which I used in my classroom for years, as a tool to improve classroom interaction. Through cooperative learning, children are taught the specific skills involved in how to work together, listen, help each other, take turns so everyone participates, encourage each other, stay on task, respect each other’s ideas, make decisions and come to agreement.

When students practice these skills regularly, teachers will notice the positive results becoming part of the students’ everyday behavior and an increase in academic skills when kids learn the proper way to help each other. Students get to know each other much better when they have to work together for the success of all and know how to do it effectively. They learn to accept each other’s differences.

This isn’t just “touchy-feely stuff”. These are the skills for effective interaction between people whether in school or in the workplace. Cooperative learning is a concrete action that can be implemented in schools with little extra instructional time, no taxpayer expense and with research-proven results.

Jane Broeckelman, Colorado Springs

Reasoned debate is what schools do

In an otherwise interesting guest opinion on March 22, Jennifer Schubert-Akin claims that the skills of “rhetoric, logic and argumentation” have been “largely denounced on college campuses.” This claim is false.

Take the case of UCCS. We – like every university in the world – offer courses that train students in exactly these skills. At UCCS, the Department of Philosophy offers two courses, Critical Thinking and Symbolic Logic, which together train more than 1,000 students a year in logic, argument construction, argument analysis, and fallacy recognition.

The Department of English teaches every UCCS student the skills of rhetoric and argumentative writing. And every department at UCCS teaches discipline-specific inquiry methods, each one as rigorous as the discipline requires.

Schubert-Akin also claims that logic and argumentation have been “replaced” on campuses by a relativism of feeling, experience, and force. This too is false. Worse, it’s a fallacious straw man premised on a false alternative about truth, a hasty generalization about university faculty, and several red herrings.

Consider only the hasty generalization and one of the red herrings. Even if there are relativist faculty members scattered across campuses, nonrelativists far outnumber them, and even if some university faculty teach relativism, teaching what relativism is does not imply endorsing it.

As a professor in the UCCS Philosophy Department, I frequently teach students what relativism is across a number of domains, but those same students then criticize it using logical and reasoned argument.

Schubert-Aikin can rest assured that logic and argumentation are flourishing on university campuses everywhere. Reasoned debate is what universities have always done and will always do. That is their job.

Rex Welshon, Colorado Springs

Take this needed precaution

Remember the really old joke about the man who loses his car keys at night in his front yard, and he’s searching for them at the end of the block under the streetlight? His neighbor says to him, “Why are you looking here when you lost them in your yard?” He says, “The light is so much better here.”

This analogy keeps popping up in my mind about the school shootings when the left blames the NRA and guns in general. It is abundantly clear that we need to have defenders in our schools – retired military or maybe retired policemen. Plus it would be great if you have some teachers (purely voluntary) who will conceal carry.

A sheriff in Cincinnati let it be known (after the school shooting in Florida) that his office would train any teachers who came forward and wanted to get a concealed carry permit. He thought maybe 20 would be interested. Three hundred applied right away, and registration had to be closed. It was all they could handle.

Until we can “fix” the underlying problem with what has happened to our culture, we would be wise to take this needed precaution.

Mental illness is a problem, and I think it stems from no moral grounding. In fact, that concept of right and wrong is thoroughly dismissed in our schools today. That all things are relative is now taught. This trend started in the 1960s and now has reached a crescendo. In the ’50s and prior to that, kids in some school districts carried rifles in their trucks in the rack behind them for target practice after school with a teacher.

Why were there no school shootings before the ’50s?

Well, that’s what I think.

Roberta Sutton, Evergreen