That Time My Liberal and Conservative Friends Got Along on Social Media

donkey-elephant

Something interesting happened yesterday. As I was wading through all the media outrage about the confirmation of Betsy Devos as Education Secretary, and the all outrage about the media outrage, I began to notice a pattern. Most of her detractors (which seemed to include the majority of those in my social media circles) and many of her supporters (who, while less vocal, aren’t necessarily less passionate) seemed to have one thing in common. The conversation was being driven primarily by her perceived qualifications.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. A person’s qualifications—or lack thereof, as the case may be—are important considerations when hiring for any job. But it revealed to me a gap in my own knowledge: What exactly does the Secretary of Education do? And how can we objectively evaluate her job performance?

Those seemed like important questions, particularly given the extreme vitriol of most of the comments I’ve seen from folks who I know beyond a shadow of a doubt are passionate about teaching, and genuinely love students. So while I set off to do a little research of my own, I decided to try something.

As frustrating as social media can be when it comes to political discourse, I consider my friends, colleagues, and acquaintances to be a very valuable resource, particularly in the field of education. And so I wondered, is it possible to frame a discussion in which folks from all across the political spectrum can contribute civilly and rationally toward the common objective of better understanding of a difficult issue? On Facebook, no less?

Thus far I’ve been very pleased with the responses I’ve gotten to my initial question, and to the discussion that has followed. I’ve heard from parents, grandparents, public school teachers & administrators, college professors, and other concerned citizens. They represent a VERY diverse cross-section of political and religious beliefs. Some vehemently oppose DeVos, some welcome her, and others are reserving judgment. But now we’re about 50 comments in, and there’s been nothing but constructive dialogue from all involved.

A lot of this is just because I have awesome friends, but it’s gotten me curious as to whether or not I might be able to consistently cultivate this type of discussion. If so, that would be of tremendous benefit to me, and hopefully to many others. As a pastor, I preach a message that is consistent and necessary for people from all walks of life, all political persuasions, all philosophical worldviews. To be most effective, I need to understand how others think. I genuinely want to know every side to an issue so that I can know how best to speak Truth into every situation.

So. For those who’ve been a part of the discussion on my Facebook wall already, thank you. For others, I welcome your voice, which you can contribute here. And in the future, I hope to be able to continue to proove that social media discussion doesn’t have to be fruitless.

In the meantime… I’m forming some of my own thoughts and conclusions about this particular debate, which I’ll be posting soon.