The Difference Between Classroom Discussion and Argumentation

Jillian Neuner ‘19, Editor-in-Chief

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As I have taken many courses at Marymount over the years, my classmates and peers have taught me the art of respectful discussion. I value the Marymount education for its encouragement of free discussion and the liberty to express everyone’s opinions and beliefs. However, upon becoming a Senior, my classes have become more discussion-oriented, namely World Religions and AP Government. As I’ve adjusted to these classroom environments, I have realized the importance of always maintaining respectful discussion rather than heated argumentation, especially in classroom settings that include a variety of opinions.

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The first important aspect of effectively participating in discussion is the practice of being respectful in one’s phrasing and appreciating others’ opinions rather than searching for counterarguments. When occasional differences of opinion do take place, it is important not to fight to find a way to resolve the “issue.” Especially in classes such as AP Government, when a variety of opinions exist regarding politicians, ideologies, and policies, the ideal approach toward an effective discussion remains rooted in understanding and acceptance.

Moreover, another significant facet of successful and meaningful discussion lies in the act of joining discussions with the intent to learn rather than to teach. Often, when other opinions that oppose our own are revealed, it becomes first instinct to defend our views. However, in order to have a collaborative and encouraging discussion, everyone involved must recognize – and appreciate – diversity in opinion. Rather than possessing an intent to explain one’s own views, valuable learning and personal growth come from understanding opposing viewpoints. Therefore, although each individual has the right to contribute their personal outlook, this right must not be confused with the act of teaching one’s views and forcing them upon others.

Overall, I have observed – and taken part in – respectful, productive, and meaningful discussions at Marymount, and I believe the reason for our success in classroom debate is rooted in our adherence to the aforementioned skillsets. Fortunately, our Marymount education provides us with the skills necessary for proper communication and collaboration, which will aid us in our future pursuits.