Until recently, thoughtful, and respectful debate between citizens has been a strong Pillar of our Republic and ensuring young people understand this principle is crucial for the proper functioning of our society.
While debate does not always lead to agreement, understanding different perspectives, or adopting different views, it is the willingness to debate that is crucial. Leading us back to that critical point where all sides of a debate are given an equal chance to be heard is a needed step in the right direction.
Our working group found itself in an unusual and uncomfortable position. We live in a remote area where one might think that strong opinions and censorship are rare, but things can change. Because of our stage in life we have time to write and a strong belief that our nation is headed down a dangerous path, with social media at the core of the problem.
But then the question becomes: “What can one do in the face of all the vitriolic discussions and incalcitrant positions?” It is just too easy to let it all pass and enjoy life away from the conflict we see.
However, doing nothing is the wrong answer when you see things that need attention, and you have the capacity to improve things. Many in our group are veterans who have served our Country and fought to preserve its principles. Watching as our principles and liberties erode is inappropriate when one has the capacity and courage to do something to improve the situation.
The problems we face from social media relate to its use, not the technology. In theory when used appropriately, social media holds the promise of connecting people across the Country and beyond. But today users, especially children, are left with social media as a de facto babysitter and surrogate parent. In this environment, influences outside of the family can have a profound influence on the development of youth.
Adults are not much better, and in many cases worse, at the management of their time and energy when using these tools. For most of us we are staring into an abyss with no easy solution. However, we can define several of the problems and in doing so begin to address them.
Social media encourages six specific negative behaviors that we feel can be addressed by concerned citizens with the desire and focus to do so.
The destruction of grammar and writing skills
The creation of a toxic environment where participants are encouraged to engage in a reactionary exchange
A loss of critical thinking capacities, where there is a value placed on speed of response and not depth of thought
An attack on the self-esteem of many of our youngest and most vulnerable, and a value placed on narcissism
A distraction from meaningful learning which has lowered our national placement in world education
A strong financial incentive for owners to choose winners and losers, and in many cases falsification of data for personal gain
All of this would be little more than an interesting distraction if it were not coupled with schools and teachers that hardly have time to teach critical writing and analytical skills. Many of our schools now foster an environment where pupils are pitted against one another based on religion, race, or history. Both situations are intolerable in a healthy society and will lead to our destruction by our own hands. Both situations go against our founding principles and Constitution.
We will not go so far as to call our efforts “the solution”, but instead a contribution toward “a solution”. A step in the right direction toward a more civil society. A society where the primary form of communication is neither texting nor social media, but instead well thought out and written positions that advance our nation.
This is not an exercise in looking for a way to return to the good old days. The good old days were not always good, and there has been too much advancement in science and technology to retreat from those gains. Instead, our proposal is a way to leverage those advancements into positive and meaningful discourse.
Our nation has been blessed with men and women who were and are great communicators and orators. In the spirit of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, less is often more. In just 272 words Lincoln delivered one of the greatest speeches of all times. On the same day Edward Everett delivered his address of an estimated 13,000 words without notes. Lincoln chose words that mattered and in doing so gave all of us a blueprint for how to create impactful writings. We remember one speech and not the other!
Lincoln also recognized the importance of placing the Nation above political alliances and laid out a blueprint for reconciliation following the Civil War. There are lessons to be learned from those who have come before us and suffered for our Nation.
There is more detail for the submission of articles, but restraint on topic is not a consideration so long as the topic is well presented. Here we are focused on one’s ability to construct a logical, correctly worded, grammatically correct, concise position on any topic. These are critical life skills that transcend specific areas of study or interest. For that reason, and for practical reasons of time and space, articles have some boundaries that are listed in the Participation Section..
Another phenomenon we face as a nation is shifting demographics, where sizeable portions of our population are now “bunched up” in just a few metropolitan cities. Intelligence does not stop at the city limit of our major cities. In fact, we often find that better and more thoughtful discussions occur where people know each other and take the time to think before they speak.
The citizens of the “Fly Over States” as politicians refer to them have much to say, and much to convey about a host of topics.