Disagreement is everywhere. At times it feels like it has overtaken discourse and that a civil exchange of ideas is near impossible. How are young people supposed to navigate this world?
When faced with disagreement the natural reaction is to pull back. But it is in those moments when leadership is needed most.—Ryan Hoglund, director of ethical education
At Rowland Hall, it is with the help of their teachers, administrators, and a bevy of special guests who are part of the recently revived Upper School Speaker Series.
The theme of this year’s series is “Leading with Impact While Navigating Disagreement.” The aim is to help students understand the importance of listening to diverse perspectives when forming opinions and to teach them to become leaders even in the face of contentious arguments.
“When faced with disagreement the natural reaction is to pull back,” said Ryan Hoglund, director of ethical education. “But it is in those moments when leadership is needed most. The speakers are helping our students learn how to lead in those moments.”
English teacher Kody Partridge began the speakers series more than a decade ago as part of her 11th-grade rhetorical research project. (As was the case with many programs, the series was shelved last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.) Series speakers are all considered changemakers—people who recognize when positive change is needed and take action to make a difference—in their respective fields. In their presentations, they lay out for students how they have dealt with disagreements in their professions and how those disagreements have helped them grow their skill sets and reach important goals.
The series kicked off in October with Brittney Cummins, educational advisor to Utah Governor Spencer Cox. Since then, Salt Lake Tribune Executive Editor Lauren Gustus, Millcreek City Council Representative Silvia Catten, alumna and activist Dulce Horn ’20, First District Congressional Representative Blake Moore, Senate Candidate Becky Edwards, Flourish Bakery and Flourish Ventures Executive Director Rev. Aimee Altizer, and Utah Senator Derek L. Kitchen have spoken to students.
I have really enjoyed how the speakers have helped us understand the importance of implementing these dialogue tactics in our day-to-day lives.—Kaitlyn Bates, class of 2022
“Millcreek City Councilwoman Silvia Catten discussed navigating billboard controversies,” said Dr. Carolyn Hickman, English department chair, when asked to share an example of a message from this year’s series that stood out to her. “She vividly illustrated the importance of active listening and empathy building as she spoke to the challenges of building compromise at the local level.”
“She explained how she worked around conflicts to help benefit her own community; I found her tactics about how to approach the more tense situations to be super informative and engaging.” added senior Kaitlyn Bates. “I have really enjoyed how the speakers have helped us understand the importance of implementing these dialogue tactics in our day-to-day lives.”
The speaker series is a companion piece to the Deliberate Dialogue skill set taught throughout the Upper School curriculum. These skills, defined early in the year so that students can develop an awareness of when to use them, include:
- Open-Mindedness: I am open to learning about the lives, values, and beliefs of others.
- Listening: I can reflect what the other person is saying.
- Speaking: I can speak for myself and not on the behalf of others.
- Responding: I am able to respond empathetically to others.
- Reflecting: I can find differences as well as similarities between my life, values, and beliefs, and those of others.
“Collaboration is messy. We want students to know that conflict can be productive and when that mess is managed you get the best outcomes,” said Ryan. “This not only helps prepare them for college, but for the world at large.”