Arguing with myself

November 18, 2016
Matt Thompson

Matt Thompson

I’ll confess that this post is equally influenced by what I see playing out around me in spaces that are not schools. But, as it always seems to, I can’t help but think about what it means for schools and learning.

I’ve recently taken a break from Facebook. While I’m grateful for the wide cross-section of views from friends and family, I had found myself on occasion too far down the rabbit hole of the comments section. (Where did the videos of kids and cats go in my feed?) And it was stirring up some unhealthy responses for me, so I needed a break. I’m sure there’s a fair amount of user error involved, but I think there’s also something else at play, with Facebook being just one venue where it’s playing out.

We’re more than happy to argue with each other, but much less eager to argue with ourselves.

It’s just so much easier to give into the reflex and lob out an argument against something or someone. You can do all of that without actually ever having to process ideas that don’t align with how you currently make sense of things.

The alternative, which is often not my first impulse, is to pause. In that pause, several things can happen. For one, you can actually listen and hear.  And then there’s also a chance to step back and look at your own thinking. Better yet, try arguing with yourself. Try earnestly to poke holes in your own thinking and see where you end up. That might land you exactly where your first reflex was, but it might create a noticeable shift in how you are making sense of things. Either way, there will be an increased depth and nuance to your thinking as a result of the process. Some, like Dewey, might just call that learning. And Kegan’s notion of growth comes to mind too.

I’ve got a long list of parenting fails, but one that I’m really hoping to get right with my kids is helping them develop “iceberg thinking.” My hope is that they will learn to appreciate that below the surface of what they see in interactions with someone or something, there lies a much more elaborate story, full of complexity, that is worth exploring. But if we don’t pause and get a view of our thinking in those interactions, we’ve just let a chance for learning, connection and growth to slip by.

So, start an argument…with yourself. Help your students figure out how to do that.  The process is worth the pause.

Side note – what does your “I’m arguing with myself” face look like? Mine closely resembles discomfort, which is not to be confused with my “it smells strange in here” face. 


This blog originally appeared on Learning From the Cheap Seats.