Letter to the Editor: “Student presentations cause discomfort”

Discomfort is a part of growth. Exercising, public speaking, trying something new, can all cause some level of discomfort. But all these activities present us with an opportunity for development. This brings me to the topic at hand; should presentations that cause students discomfort be avoided? In my opinion, school should be viewed as a learning environment where you can make mistakes, evolve your thinking, and explore different points of view. Controversial topics will cause some natural discomfort. Instead of avoiding them, I want to offer three tips that will make talking about them lead to growth and understanding. Keep an open mind. This means entering the conversation not with the goal of changing your mind, but ready to receive new information. Avoid personal attacks or labeling. Reducing an issue down to an extreme point of view is our brains way of simplifying a complex topic. This can lead to us knowingly or unknowingly attacking or labeling a group while disregarding the nuanced opinions needed to understand controversial topics. 

Remember what you have in common. The easiest way to approach an uncomfortable topic is to remember what you have in common with the person or group you are discussing. Look for opportunities to highlight shared values or beliefs. I know this isn’t easy, but 70 years ago, neither was talking about school desegregation. The last thing I will leave you with is that your opinion today will be tomorrows public policy. Why not take time to learn and evolve your thinking in a place that is designed for just that.


Mr. Robinson