Teaching Perspective, Part 1: What is it?

One of the biggest problems facing our society is our inability to disagree with others without turning them into enemies. So many people have lost the skill to put themselves into another person's shoes, and they only look at the world through a limited lens. When we read about people and ideas in the news or have conversations with others, most of us have a clear idea of what we already believe, and if ideas come up that don't fit in with ours, then we immediately jump to the conclusion that the person we are talking to is somehow delusional, living with a mental disorder, or just plain stupid. Sometimes this is true. Most of the time it is not. Most of the time, what is really happening, is that the two people or ideas that are converging, have simply had different life experiences that have led them to their thoughts and ideas. And that most of us are too comfortable with the ideas we think are our own, that we would rather ignore truths from people on the other side rather than be uncomfortable confronting the fact that we may be wrong and we should now adjust our thinking.

Think about it. Bob from Albuquerque, New Mexico and Willow from Portland, Oregon have most likely grown up in different circumstances being raised by different people who also have different values that they want to pass on. Both of them are probably kind to strangers, never lie, and believe in taking care of their families. Bob and Willow will also most likely disagree wholeheartedly on issues such as abortion, gun rights, and immigration. Seems understandable and logical that these two wouldn't agree on a whole lot simply because of their individual life experiences and where they grew up. Unfortunately the skill set that people are walking around with today, and the way society and politics have created division, it has made it so that that these two can't just disagree, they must hate each other and turn the other into a monster because of their beliefs. All of this is because of the inability to see things from different perspectives.

Perspective is defined as a particular attitude or way of regarding something, in other words, it is your point of view. Your point of view is shaped by the things that have happened to you, the values that you have accepted, and the way your parents raised you. Most educators know that not all parents are doing a stellar job at teaching their children to treat all people kindly and fairly (mainly because their parents taught them the same), so it has become very important that we teach teach the value of perspective in school. It is one of the skills that students should not just be taught, but be building from a young age, just like problem solving, critical thinking, constructive communication, and the dozens of other life skills that will give students the power to succeed in any field.

Teaching students how to view the world through different lenses is a invaluable tool. It builds the skills to allow you to react less emotionally and more logically and it allows you to connect with more and more people on a deeper level. Perspective also promotes empathy by allowing you to be able to put yourself in someones shoes and support them even if you don't always agree or understand. It teaches critical thinking and problem solving by allowing students to think deeper about topics that require more than just a single glance. It also helps develop social emotional skills (SE) by allowing you to see the connections and commonalities you have with everyone and everything around you. It teaches respect.

To be Continued....

Part Two coming on September 6, 2020

One way to learn more about the world and gain some perspective. Check out this free activity that students can use while exploring Google Earth.

Google Earth Project
Download PDF • 380KB

Here are more free resources

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