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Respect for Learning and for Each Other

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Latest update: December 1, 2000

Respect for Learning and for Each Other

On Friday, December 1, 2000 Valencia Ross and Latanya Britt wrote:

Monday's class discussion was very intense. We talked about respect and responsibility. During this discussion Latanya and I tried to come up with with a valid way in which repect and responsibility should relate to our class (to learning in general). As students we should respect the professors as well as the students. People in our class seem to feel that as students our relationship should be based on teacher student respect. This means that they come to class and, if there are any issues such as being late, then they see those issues as between the teacher and the student. Although this is true, the student also should show some respect for fellow students.

Some students stated, "we are all paying for our education so it does not matter what people think". Latanya and I totally disagreed with this comment and seemed to take the side of Armand. We felt that when the class is being disrupted this is taking away from us, we could have learned something during that period of time. Since we are all pressed for time and things do happen, students should be a little more considerate of their class mates.

We think that students must have some type of respect for learning because they are bettering their education. But at the same time we all need to analyze our actions and recognize that our decisions not only affect us but the people around us also.

On Saturday, December 2, 2000, Valencia Ross and Latanya Britt continued:

Based on Monday's discussion on respect for learning do you think that we were engaging in dominant discourse or linear thinking? We tend to think that it was a little of both. We were talking about the roles and responsibilities of students, some of the negative class etiquette and unstated assumptions that students have. We talked a lot about the problems but did not come up with any solutions (talking in circles).

On Saturday, December 2, 2000, jeanne responded:

Wow, it's good to see you thinking together. Both messages just came in this afternoon, so I'll have to deal with them together. I know you all like for me to evaluate with a grade. Just remember that the thinking process is what's really important.

I'd give you an "A-" for this e-mail. And part of that is because I know you both, and I'm seeing the growth in skill with which you are arguing. Let's follow my reasoning through:

  • Friday's e-mail showed me the extent to which you two were following and thinking about the discussion: respect and responsibility. Yes, you summarized that very succunctly, and then you struggled to find a conceptual link to our class, and "to learning in general." I'm impressed with the way in which you tackled this. And I liked that you were seeking a "valid way" to tackle the problem. I wonder if you weren't lots closer than you realized to a "valid" approach: to look for conceptual links to what you've studied is to distance yourself from the affect which tends to make us shout rhetoric at each other instead of really trying to analyze the arguments.

    . . . More to come . . .

    You named students with whom you agreed, but not those with whom you disagreed. Notice how Leslie Hendricks approached this. I interpreted this to indicate that you were trying to "respect" the students with whom you disagreed by not naming them. Wouldn't the assumption that naming those with whom you disagreed might disrespect them depend on the unstated assumption that it is not socially acceptable to publicly disagree with our colleagues, except in very ritualized settings, such as political campaigns? But what role does Habermas see for discourse in legitimacy? He believes that only genuine public discourse in which all validity claims are heard in good faith can lend legitimacy to society.

    Wouldn't this mean that the very issue of how to gauge respect and disrespect is a discourse issue on which legitimacy will probably depend? If that is so, then this is an issue in which well honed minds are going to disagree, and disagreement is not the issue; good faith hearings of validity claims are.

    My bet is that those students who were disagreeing with your perspective would probably like to add their perspective to this. In that case, we might want to consider whether naming them in fact shows greater respect than not naming them. Important issues, all.