Friday, November 21, 2008

The Edward R. Murrow Challenge

During my first year of teaching a friend/parent introduced me to the NPR radio show called "This I Believe." It originated from Edward R. Murrow in the 1950s as an attempt to unite the American public-- to help Americans see that we are all human and shouldn't let fear or differences drive us apart. Murrow initiated the show by asking Americans just one question: In 500 words or less, what do you believe to be true about life?

Wow! Talk about a loaded question. As a teacher, I saw this as a great opportunity for my Juniors and Seniors. Not only do I use it as a tool to talk about what a climate of fear can do to a group of people (as in the cold war, or even now for that matter), but it's a way to help kids really think about what they, not their parents, believe to be true. It's amazing what I get back from some of them and how close they let me get to their thoughts.

I'm a huge believer in practicing what I teach, but this assignment has me a little flustered. It's so hard to solidify what it is exactly that I believe. There are so many topics I could delve into like the importance of giving back, being human, forgiveness, empathy, making the most of each moment-- just to name a few. But how do I talk about those topics in just 500 words?? Now I fully understand why my 16-18-year-old students look like deer in head lights when I first present this assignment to them!

But, holding true to my pedagogy, I have decided to take Murrow's invitation as a personal challenge. After all, how can I ask my students to do something I haven't done myself? It might take me some time and require some space, but I'm going to do it. I think it's such a valuable exercise to think and then share what we believe. It helps us be human and helps us to recognize other humans-- something that is pretty rare in our society at the moment.

Wow, Murrow was smart! For that matter, whoever invented this whole blog thing is smart. I can't help but notice since I've started blogging how powerful it can be. I'm still amazed at its ability to unite perfect strangers just by allowing us to be human. There's important power in that. I just hope I can share that with my students and also continue to be a part of it myself.

Anybody else up for the Murrow challenge?? What do you believe to be true about life?


Don said...

"I'm a huge believer in practicing what I teach..." A writing teacher who writes? About 2 in 10 based on my research. You go!

Saphron said...

Okay, that last paragraph kind of brought a tear to my eye...

One thing that always upset me about teens was how often you just knew they were parroting what their parents said. Whether they were discussing religion or politics or whatever, I just...couldn't shake that they weren't giving their real thoughts and ideas.

Anyone who recognizes the importance of highlighting teenagers' true beliefs is doing a great thing. Please, keep it up! Maybe you can start a nationwide initiative or something. :D

I have a feeling if I attempted Murrow's challenge it would quickly decline into nihilism, so I don't know that I will. But, rest assured, it will be rolling around in my head.

Don said...

I thought of playing along... but didn't. Now, as I'm writing a series of posts on my personal affirmations, I am writing about what I believe.

Not quite the challenge you challenged us with... but it is a sharing and distilling what I believe.

My sister once said, "Everyone needs to believe in something. I believe I'll have another a beer." (And she didn't even hardly drink!) But I digress...