If we look at how we and our children have been taught to communicate, it gets easier to understand why there is so little effective communication going around. Schools teach people what to think. That is the box they put us in because it is easier to control people when they are confined.
Teachers, not gods, are left to control chaos and teach us. They are directed, for egalitarian purposes, to group us into tight, equal little bundles and pour what they think is important all over us. They are told an equal application of the goo also means equal absorption. They are, of course, completely wrong.
They may not want to be wrong, but they are pressed for time, dealing with constant disruptions, marginally educated in fields outside of their areas of teaching, forced to teach to tests, and locked in a system that is not interested in individuals or their messy ways. And because they are usually the product of their present circumstances, teachers are often as challenged as the rest of us when they are forced to write down what they think.
To bring the nightmare to life, let’s review the steps in writing a paper. These are supposed to be the steps we must take to effectively communicate our ideas. Stay with this, you are not required to participate and there will not be a grade. Yawning is expected. But, you can’t get your pudding unless you eat your meat.
According to our educational system, these are the component parts of effective communication and their expected order of presentation.
Steps for Writing the Term Paper, or The Way We Communicate
What is the question?
=The thesis statement
=Statement of relevance
=Introduction to the methods of research
=Support for the thesis statement
=Examination of counter arguments
=Resolution of counter arguments
=Restatement of the thesis statement in light of evidence and objections.
=Discussion about what this answer to the question means and how it applies
to the reader.
Notice how we can’t follow the directions unless we learn the meanings of a lot of specialized terms? If we can learn all this, then we’ll have to remember this new language the next time we want to communicate something complicated. Who can do that? Who would?
A much better way to think about communicating can be seen in the skilled story teller’s presentation.
The story teller says:
I think it’s important to tell a story about: _____.
This story is important because of _____.
I learned about this story by _____.
This is the story: _____.
Some people say this is not the right story because of this: _____.
They are wrong because of this: _____.
I will review my story in light of the objections I found.
I think this story is important for these reasons: _____.
Here’s what you can do to be a part of this story.
What’s the difference between the first method and the second? They both include the necessary parts that make up effective communication. The first is a complicated collection of words and definitions, the second is a common method simple to follow. Both sets of instruction will get the job done. The difference lies in attitude and history.
The attitude of the complicated instructions is really the result of the narcissism of the gatekeepers. The gatekeepers, teachers, school administrators, school boards, college admissions boards, employers, and anyone who thinks they can gain advantage by hiding the facts, keep the doors to knowledge closed until we can prove we are worthy to learn or we can somehow pay for the privilege to know. If they can either keep us ignorant or explain things in such a way that you and I cannot understand, then they can claim to be intellectually superior. If they can make us believe they are intellectually superior, then they can most likely make us afraid not to follow them. At the least, they will be able to argue that because they are intellectual superior, then they are most likely our moral and ethical superiors as a consequence of their intellectual superiority. If our best response is something like, “Oh yeah?” they will probably end up with our money.
There is also a difference in perspective about the way to truth. Some people believe the first set of instructions are the only way to go about writing and speaking. Curriculum developers, school administrators, many teachers and some educational elitists fall in this group. They believe in building truths. Follow the steps, construct your truth-vessel just right, and the story will be told in the best way to gain acceptance.
On the other hand, people who we read and listen to most often fall into the group of story tellers. They tell their stories with all the necessary parts, the parts found in the first tedious example, but they know the outline is not the point of the story.
Some may say the first example is the more precisely defined method. That may be true, but does its use mean the story will be better or more factual or more clearly presented?
Both ways, the scholastic method and the story telling method, a much older tradition, teach the same thing: There are ways to tell a story and there are things that must be included that make good communication. The way a story is told and what is included in the telling is the art.