Danger of Passion

Posted on May 20, 2010. Filed under: art and creativity, classroom related, leadership related, thinking aloud |

To converse with my husband, you must desire a straight shooter, a born and bred New Yorker who does not soften his honesty to suit the audience. Often, Joe is relied on by folks in his industry.  They ask him his opinion because they know they will get exactly what they asked for and no less. He speaks what he thinks and feels, and  you know he means it by the way his neck clenches and his eyes light up. My daughters rely on their father’s honest approach as well.  If they really want to know whether a dress, haircut, or set of shoes work, they ask Dad.  (If they need a softer, gentler approach that might be stuffed in diplomatic cotton, they ask me.)

You might be asking what does this have to do with passion? And what does this have to do with education? Here is what I am thinking:

When we feel passionately about what we are saying (and so by default what we are teaching), it comes across as a frank sort of honesty. It FEELS more believable, trustworthy, and real. Have you noticed when we begin to talk about “engaging” students inevitably emotion-laden words enter the conversation: belief, charged, excited, drama, and so on? Emotions connect and bind us together.  A passionate person is much more likely to speak with emotion and thus keep us interested and connected AND ENGAGED (though sometimes they might make us feel challenged and angry during our engagement).

Passion is also scarier. People who talk with (and teach with) emotion can sound like ideologues, over-attached to their own ideas, unable to see a new idea, and too fired up to listen to others.  The present political climate is filled with passionate people who do not seem to know what they are talking about, their evidence is often emotion-built, not facts. Over time, this approach can beat you down, make you tired of talking.

On the other end of things, academics rely on facts and evidence.  Not a bad thing, and it keeps them from falling into passionate ideology.  It tends to help them see and present the gray areas, understand the different points of view to an argument, and demand evidence. It is more diplomatic, and provides safer haven for easier dialogue. Nevertheless, academic talk is dry, and boring, and people do not trust that you mean what you say. Academ-eeze is not engaging. It lacks passion.

I believe in education we need to recognize the need for passion and emotion in what we do, but we cannot allow our passion to undermine the need for evidence and reason.  How can we build the skills to do both?

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