OPINION: In a time of national conflict, respectful discourse is important

As the United States devolves further into political turmoil, Malvern Prep contrasts it with the “Courageous Conversations”. The difference is critical.


On Tuesday, September 29, presidential candidates Joe Biden (D) and Donald Trump (R) met to discuss policy. It descended into chaos. On that same day, Malvern finished its first rounds of student-inclusive Courageous Conversations, which exist to create meaningful discussion.

It’s hard to find someone in the United States who genuinely believed that Tuesday’s debate was meaningful. Very little policy or ideologies were discussed, and finished with Moderator Chris Wallace and America shaking their heads, and justly so. This isn’t about who won the debate, because that’s debatable. But it’s certain that America lost. 

Across the country, similar discussions are taking place, people argue how someone else’s candidate is racist, or a radical extremist, or simply how someone else’s candidate is awful in general. None of this is productive, and it’s a step backwards into intellectual destruction and misinformation.

Even in many classrooms across the nation, students and teachers find themselves amidst the battleground of American politics. In this, teachers feel at war with students, and students feel invalidated by teachers, and nobody wins. 

As that happens on a national scale, Malvern pushes its students to hear the other side and to engage in meaningful conversation. With the latest example being Courageous Conversations, which Malvern has run for several years, though just beginning to include students.

This is not an endorsement of Malvern’s diversity efforts, because while Malvern is clearly making strides to improve its campus, the school still has a ways to go. While Malvern’s campus is still vastly white, affluent students, the school is working towards looking like the rest of the nation.

This is an endorsement of the idea that Malvern is pushing free and independent speech and thought. Anyone who attended the Conversations could attest that all discussion was open and honest. All thoughts, though many were unanimous, were heard in an honest and respectful fashion, no matter the background of the person speaking. 

A debt is owed, to that respect, to teacher moderators and leaders who led the event. But Generation Z, the generation of the future, can be those who preserve that open discussion. Malvern students can be the ones who preserve that open discussion.

Malvern’s theme for this year is “Hear the other side”, something that could not ring truer in this year of chaos. With the rise of “fake news” and misinformation, listening to those across the aisle remains important. This does not mean that everyone has to agree, and quite the opposite is true. Discourse creates a good democracy. 

Listening to those across the aisle means finding a solution that works for everyone. Listening means having conversations that are difficult, yet necessary towards growth on both a personal and national level.  

Continue to have those conversations. Take them home. Talk about them at the dinner table with family and at the lunch table with friends. Because that’s how this school and this country move forward.