“It’s better to be alone than in bad company.” George Washington attribution – Character
How do we know if somebody is good or bad?
Kids are in the midst of making so many ethical choices about the types of people they should be hanging out with. There is peer pressure to spend time with friends who may make questionable life choices but whose approval is important for a child’s self-esteem. Friendship advice from parents, coaches and other authority figures often go unheard because they conflict with what kids believe inside. Decisions on which company to keep are never easy but they are integral to the healthy moral development of human beings.
Join Steve and Dan Fouts – founders of Teach Different and twin brothers with over 50 years of teaching experience – along with Mirna Madi, International Baccalaureate English language and literature teacher at the Bahrain Bayan School – for an unforgettable conversation about character using the Teach Different 3-Step Method.
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Regarding the attribution of this quote to George Washington, he is not the original author. The quote comes from a collection of “Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation” regularly used by 16th century French school children. The Library of Congress writes, “Sometime before the age of 16, George Washington transcribed 110 ‘Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation’ into his school copybook.”
Image source: Wikimedia | John Trumbull
Dan Fouts 00:01
Hello, Steve and Dan Fouts here from Teach Different. We’re veteran teachers from the United States, bringing educators together from around the world to learn a simple conversation method, which we model on this podcast for you. If you’re a teacher, administrator, homeschooler, a parent who wants to use the power of conversations to build stronger relationships and fight polarization, then stay tuned to hear the impact our method can have on your discussions. Join our community of educators at Teachdifferent.com for additional resources, and to participate in lively conversations among teachers and faculty, free for 30 days.
Dan Fouts 00:44
Hello, everybody, welcome to the Teach Different podcast. We are excited today to have a quote for you on character. This quote is attributed to George Washington, but we’ll share a little history behind who actually said it and where it comes from. We have a guest from Bahrain, in the Persian Gulf, who is going to share her perspectives and insights on this quote. I’ll let her introduce herself in a moment, once we weigh in on the claim.
Dan Fouts 01:29
For those of you new to the podcast, we’re going to start with the quote, and unpack it. We’ll come up with the claim by asking ourselves what we think it means, in our own words. When we have these conversations with students, they may have thirty different interpretations for the same quote. Once we’ve had a conversation about the claim of the quote, then we’ll push against it to come up with a counterclaim. This is where the critical thinking piece comes in, because we have to agree with the counterclaim as much as we did with the claim. That’s how you get tension in the discussion which encourages students to start revealing their ideas. As the conversation is happening, jot down any questions that emerge. That’s the inquiry component. These are the three parts to the protocol, and we’ll go through it with this quote.
Dan Fouts 02:26
Let me read the quote twice, and then we’ll have our guest Myrna weigh in. “It’s better to be alone than in bad company.” “It’s better to be alone than in bad company.” Now, as I mentioned, George Washington is attributed to this quote, but I did some digging and it actually comes from a collection of “Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation,” which was used by schoolchildren of George Washington’s era. I think it actually comes from France. George Washington transcribed this quote, “It’s better to be alone than in bad company,” into his school book when he was 16 years old. It must have had a big impact on him, which is probably why it’s attributed to him. I thought that was an interesting historical anecdote. Myrna, welcome to the Teach Different podcast. It’s great to see you again. After you share a short introduction about yourself, please weigh in on the quote.
Mirna Madi 03:43
Thank you, Dan and Steve. Hi, I’m Mirna. I’m from Lebanon originally, but have been working in Bahrain. For those who do not know where Bahrain is, it’s next to Dubai. That’s now the landmark for us to define Dubai. It’s in the Bahrain, in the Gulf region in the Middle East. I’ve been teaching for 15 years as the subject leader for the English department in high school. I’m an International Baccalaureate, English language and literature teacher. It’s important to acknowledge that the students I teach, including myself, are non-native English speakers. However, our medium of instruction is first language, hence why we chose a language.
I teach grades 11 and 12, young adults heading to college. It can be challenging teaching them and guiding them to a good journey in life. I am personally interested in unconventional methods of teaching and instructional approaches. For me, storytelling is one of my favorite pedagogical tools. After I attended the workshop that relates to inquiry based learning, I learned about this conversation protocol. Since then this strategy has been embedded, explicitly and implicitly, in my lessons. It may serve as a lesson opener, a mid-lesson discussion, or even at closure to cultivate thinking practices with students. It’s now in my skill set, and I’m using it quite frequently. It allows me and enables students to see multiple perspectives, which is key to analyzing any notion, concept or idea. This conversational protocol is mostly implemented in my English classes, and in some of my advisory lessons. I have sessions where I meet with students one on one to have these deep talks about academic and non-academic matters. Thank you for hosting me today. I’m ready to unpack the quote of the day.
Dan Fouts 06:26
Mirna Madi 06:28 – Claim
I’ve chosen this quote, “It’s better to be alone than in bad company,” because it tackles two important components – character and self management. Teaching grade 11 and 12 students can be a good social experiment, because I have noticed recently, and throughout the semester, that students are being driven by peer pressure a lot. In this part of the world, for those who are not familiar with the Arab world, our students look up to the West. They look towards western values, and try to adopt certain lifestyle habits or phenomena that make them feel liberal compared to the life that they lead. The lifestyle they are leading now is somehow conservative, oriented in abiding by values, societal norms, conventions, and it’s a bit conditioned by guides and parents. Whenever I introduced to them a Western, or a non-Arab concept, they would always judge it. They would start by judging it and giving it labels. Anything for them that is unlike what they are assimilated to, may sound like fact.
Mirna Madi 08:22
The reason why they judge is because they believe that anything that may smear their reputation, or crash their self, or public image, is considered threatening or dangerous. I’ve thought that if they continue to adopt this mentality, or mindset, of we should not be introduced to what they think is bad, which I’ll define in a moment, then they will prefer to be isolated and alone. So again, it’s better to be alone, than to be in bad company.
I asked them the questions of what is bad for you? It is interesting to see that for them bad is defined as anything that is non-religious, immoral, or unethical. That’s that. So for them, anything that is nonsense is sinful, or bad. So, how do we deal with that? How do we avoid this bad? How do we avoid the sin, according to them? Then, we went into the discussion that if you have a bad friend, that means you will stay away from that bad friend. For them it is actually a virtue, an obligation, and a duty to stay away from that bad friend.
We started brainstorming about what is a bad friend. A bad friend is somebody who lies, cheats, or steals. Bad ended up as if they were reciting the 10 commandments, or as if we were dealing with all of the don’ts that they are lectured about in life. I wanted to have this conversation with girls in a different way. Knowing the moral code that is instilled in girls upbringing, I asked, “if we see a girl wearing a miniskirt walking down the street, when you look at her, what is your first impression?” The entire class, specifically the girls, answered bad girl. This was an eye opener for me, because regardless of dress code or fashion, the judgment is that she is bad. She’s modeling an unacceptable behavior, meaning wearing revealing clothes. They will simply stay away from her for the fear of being lured into wrongdoing, falling into temptation, or having to do anything that may defame them.
This began another form of discussion that lead us to a place where they re-phrased the claim in simpler words. I quote from the students, “Tell me who you hang out with, and I’ll tell you who you are.” They’re always trying to psychoanalyze the traits of others before they decide to be friends, or to unfriend someone. Most of them weren’t willing to compromise, and join the bad company. They would always prefer to stay aloof, isolated, or alone to avoid, as I mentioned, wrongdoing, temptation or steering away from the righteous.
So, the question that always comes back to the discussion is, who are we to judge? What’s bad company? How do we judge what’s bad company? What might be bad for you might be good for me. I made it more of an individual case by case as they have to individually think of a claim and unpack it. The answers were different and diverse. Bad company is anything that is against their religious teachings, the dogmas they have, or anything that is agreed worldwide as bad, like murder, rape, or bullying. These are all considered bad company and they would prefer to stay away. Pure denial, avoidance, and detachment from bad company gains them credit if they protected themselves.
Steve Fouts 14:06
Most of them define bad company by the morals that they’ve grown up with and are expected to follow. That is what bad company is. I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall during that conversation.
Mirna Madi 14:32
You made me remember another example from my classes. When I was teaching Julius Caesar, which was a few sessions before this class discussion, we reached the scene where the Romans are divided, with the people who are supporting Julius Caesar and those who are against Julius Caesar. I used this moment to again plug in the quote, “it’s better to be alone than in bad company.” I asked, who are the villains? The people who want to support Caesar for the sake of Rome, or the conspirators who are plotting to assassinate Caesar for the sake of Rome? Here they got confused about defining who is bad company. Is it the conspirators, or the people who are with Caesar? We generated an additional definition for bad company to include villains. Bad company now equals villains for them. The conversation kept going, and they supported Caesar as a great Roman leader who just wanted to expand. It was not a matter of over ambition and greed. The other class went against this and said, “No, it’s a tragic flaw, and it should have been stopped.” So, we can see that the idea of bad company is always the idea of the people who are unwanted, because their negative impact may lead to harmful consequences. So it’s better to just leave them alone and not hang out with them.
Dan Fouts 16:37
That’s really interesting, Mirna, that you started with the quote, “it’s better to be alone than in bad company.” You had the discussion, and then the idea of bad company came up again, in a different setting. Because they had this discussion before, they were better equipped to think deeply about a new thing. That’s really great.
Steve Fouts 17:09
This quote is very straightforward. “It’s better to be alone than in bad company.” Okay. Yeah. You should actually be by yourself if you think you’re going to get into some trouble with other people. That’s pretty straightforward, but defining bad company becomes a story in and of itself. That becomes what’s really interesting about the quote. What’s bad company? We know what it means to be alone, but what’s bad company? I can see that emerging in different types of discussions.
Dan Fouts 17:53
To say it just one other way. It’s making a moral judgment that you should be alone in bad company. It sounds like what happened with you, Mirna, is that the morality of this statement went to “what is bad company.” They needed to define their morals before they were able to determine if they should avoid these types of people. First, they needed to know why they are bad in the first place. Your kids moved in that direction on their own. That’s great.
Mirna Madi 18:25
Which reminds me of myself as a parent. I shared this anecdote with my students, that in raising my daughter, Joy, I always tell her, do not be a bully, do not use harmful words, avoid disrespecting anybody, let everybody enjoy your company. Going back to the idea of being different and being righteous is way more worthy or honorable than being with bad company. I was about to move to the counterclaim, but now I am reconsidering what we’re discussing right now.
Steve Fouts 19:19
That’s okay. Whenever you want to hop in with it, go ahead. We usually…what do we do usually do, Dan? Usually, we get carried away with the claim and then I have to step in and say, Now, there is a counterclaim.
Dan Fouts 19:32
You always like to do it, so I let you.
Steve Fouts 19:34
But, it doesn’t matter. I was going to ask you, Dan, before we hit the counterclaim, how would you characterize an American student’s reaction to this quote? We can’t summarize all American students, but we can get an idea of what their reaction would be when they see bad company. What kinds of things are they thinking about? How are they going to react?
Dan Fouts 20:03
Now you really put me on the spot here. I I haven’t tried this one yet with my own students, so I can’t say for sure. But, I feel like they would focus on the alone part more than the bad company part, at least initially. They would talk about the dignity of being alone and not being pressured by other people. They would celebrate individuality, I think.
Mirna Madi 20:40
We had something similar. They actually mentioned American students, because as part of the International Baccalaureate we use an international learner profile. It is very sensitive to discuss certain topics in this part of the world, so we put it under the umbrella of cultural sensitivity. I asked them, if somebody drinks, and usually when I say this, I have to be very cautious about the examples I use, you simply avoid that person? What we mean by drink is drinking alcohol, any alcoholic beverage. They would avoid the person, because they feel they would be considered a partner in crime for simply indulging in the experience. I exposed them to the idea of agreeing to disagree. What if that person is not asking you to drink? That was their American way of looking at it. If drinking, clubbing or partying is not supervised, censored, or maintaining certain standards, then it’s better to be alone. It’s better to just avoid the American, they say Western in the class, because it can be European, American, or not Arab. I want to clarify that this does not necessarily mean Bahrain. There are many liberal places in this part of the world. It’s just because we’re in a school and a school is supported. We should always enlighten students and guide them towards doing only the right things and making sure we have school appropriate talks. But, it’s also good to give life lessons and to share with them because these students will eventually study abroad and meet different people from different backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, and lifestyles. They have to be ready to not be judgmental, and to not put this limited, narrow perspective of what’s bad, according to their own definition, simply because that’s their only way of thinking. It’s very limiting to them. So we have to play a role to keep feeding their thinking, perspective, and understanding of what it means to be a global citizen and what comes with that.
Steve Fouts 23:33
I get it. There are people who believe that sometimes you have to experience things in order to learn. A quote like this would suggest that if you know it’s wrong, then you’re better off being alone and not exploring things. Some parents in America will introduce their children to alcohol at an early age, to give them a bad experience where they throw up. The idea being when you taste it you’ll learn to not like it. I feel like I may be moving into a counterclaim. I don’t want to go too fast here. Dan, do you have anything else to add before we try to flip this on its head?
Dan Fouts 24:44
No, I think we’re ready to move to the counterclaim.
Steve Fouts 24:50
Mirna Madi 24:55 – Counterclaim
I love the idea that you mentioned, Steve, about experience and exposure. Two main important pillars, I believe, in education, because it’s through trial that, as you mentioned, people tend to learn. I totally agree with you when it comes to introducing students to new scenarios or new situations, to let them make their own choices. Which is now moving to the counterclaim. You should not be afraid of being in bad company, or associating yourself with bad characters. Be confident with who you are, be a role model for others, and make your own choices, regardless of who is around you or surrounding you.
The idea of, and I highlight again, what Steve said, mingling, experiencing, being exposed to, and making wise decisions is what’s worthy, not the idea of avoidance. So, the counterclaim here is stay unique, make calculated risks, make wise decisions, and use this opportunity to role model what you believe is appropriate behavior. Help others behave more appropriately, or reform their view of life or simply an idea that they think is right. Students surprised me. I felt that they found more freedom in the counterclaim. They said, we can be free, we can be immune, we can be with bad company and still maintain our stance, stick to our identity, ideology and principles and enjoy everybody who’s around without separating or detaching.
The tension was high when we discussed the counterclaim, because they were forcing themselves to be the devil’s advocates and disagree with what they strongly, and if I may say blindly, believe in. We had to discuss certain life examples, such as arranged marriages in this part of the world. What is dating in this part of the world? When we talk to grade 11 and 12 students, for many this is a taboo subject, and even the word dating may denote something negative. When we discussed that you can be part of the crowd, they said that yes, I can be with my friend and her boyfriend and still not not be in a problem. If I am participating in a meeting or going out with my friend on her date, I won’t be committing a sin, because I am there. I know where my boundaries are. I am just having a good time with my friend, regardless of any stigma, or judgmental value that would come with this conflict. What else can I add here?
Dan Fouts 28:54
That’s really great, Mirna. You took the words out of my mouth with role modeling. We can talk about morality with this quote as the morality to avoid bad people or bad company, but there’s also a morality to be an example for other people. Being a role model is as strong of a moral obligation as keeping away from bad company. That’s how I thought of this as well. Put yourself in situations where there are people who think differently and are making different choices. If we want to make a better world, at least in the individual’s eyes, then people who are making poor choices need to be around people who are making healthier choices. That’s an important obligation that we all have in the world.
Steve Fouts 30:12
What just became so obvious, in the religious sense, is what would Jesus do? What if Jesus would have said, “No, I’m not going to be around bad company?” We wouldn’t even be talking about it. We wouldn’t have a religion. The counterclaim is pretty powerful with this one. I try not to take sides with these, Mirna, but often it’s the counterclaim that is more compelling. What you both just said, how are we all going to improve if we’re only around bad company, and all the good people are alone? I mean, what does society look like after that? Scary.
Mirna Madi 31:14
Yes, it cannot be black and white, as you’re saying. It’s through the trials and tribulations that you learn the most. If you want to liberate yourself, you should let go of all of these, I don’t know how to explain it very well, but something that sounds like culturally instilled limitations, because the world is evolving, and we’re becoming a global network. Our definitions of what’s right and wrong, or what’s bad and good in this case, are even evolving and developing. Sometimes, if you fail, or if you commit a sin and you learn from it, this is much more worthy to your self-esteem than simply being in denial and avoiding.
The self-esteem aspect pushes in here, and I tried to tell them, I would definitely clap for myself if I succeeded in helping somebody who is bad company, like someone who is always speaking rudely, being impulsive, and not having any courtesy. I can see goodness in this person, and if this person had a positive environment, or better guidance, then they would have been on track. This would be, for me, more self-satisfying or self-fulfilling, rather than simply staying away and not having anything to do with the person. Many of them got to thinking about that. Some of the girls were humorous enough to say, “No wonder we’re always attracted to bad boys,” which made the conversation a bit light hearted. Then, we went into another discussion of what defines a bad boy, and what’s with this stereotype? Is it from movies? Is it from real life contexts?
With the counterclaim, they were more tolerant of bad company, unlike how we started, and they started seeing what Steve said, that if all the people were good, and if all the people were bad, how would the world survive, or how would we be? I saw that they started seeing the yin and yang, kind of good and evil.
Dan Fouts 33:53
That’s helping them become critical thinkers, which is the end goal of this protocol. It gets them thinking about their own thinking, in a way that they’re questioning themselves, working out their values and why they believe what they believe, not just what’s important.
I have a philosophy elective, Mirna, I think I told you when we did the workshop, and oftentimes in philosophy, religion comes up as a way of seeing the world. I’ve had very religious students in my philosophy class who are, at first, very nervous that the class is going to make them question their beliefs to a point where they might dump their beliefs, but I work with those students individually throughout the semester. What I found is that they come back and they say, “You know, being exposed to other ways of seeing the world through philosophy and critical thinking, is actually making my own religious views stronger. I feel better about them because I have a wider perspective.” That’s good stuff. That’s what we want for people.
Mirna Madi 35:19
You are tackling what I wholeheartedly try to teach in every lesson, which is avoidance, or I tell them, please do not be blindly obedient. If you’re skeptical or doubtful, as you mentioned, that’s when you start learning. That doesn’t mean I’m trying to corrupt you, and I highlight the word corrupt with a capital C. I’m trying to simply show you other lenses. I’m trying to show you other perspectives, because this is how you enrich. And as Dan said, this is how you cement your understanding of what you believe in. It’s a skill set. Nobody is asking you to let go of your morals. I’m asking you to add more understanding, rather than simply say it is the way it is.
Steve Fouts 36:24
You’re actually strengthening your morals, because you’re getting that exposure to the counter arguments, and you’re not naive. You might even be a better proselytizer if that’s what you want to do. If you want to bring people to where you are, then you have to show them that you understand where they are. I’m thinking about questions now, Mirna. You had a question at the beginning that you shared. I don’t know if that was a question that kind of emerged from the conversation that you had with the kids or whether there were some other ones that came out. Dan, what are you thinking as far as a question? Or, Mirna, share one if you have one.
Mirna Madi 37:16
The question in my mind, now is the essential question, but the question that was raised earlier was whom are we to judge? It’s like questioning the ethos of who it’s not like, Who gave you the authority to decide what is wrong and bad? What criteria defines the status? This question annoyed my students, because the minute I questioned authority or who decides what’s wrong and bad, we went back to religion, as Steve mentioned. They start saying it’s what God said. It’s in our religious and holy books. I try my best not to instill rebellion in the students, but I end up doing this by accident. I want them to question things. I want them to try to disbelieve certain things, only to come back and decide whether to believe it again, or let go of it. It’s just clutter in their brains, and I want them to see things clearly and without the influence of anyone else. It’s solely their own decision. It’s not being imposed on them by any other custodian, parent, teacher, system, or regime, because only then will they decide to be part of the community or simply stand out and be unique.
What defines them as a citizen and individual of this world? Whenever I say this, who told you so or how do you know what is good or bad… I remember an incident from class. Definitely this I can share because I’m not mentioning names. It’s anonymous and confidential. A student’s parents were undergoing a divorce and she said, “My parents are divorcing. It’s better for my mom to be alone than to be around my abusive father.” This was a moment of courage in the class. She liberated herself by coming out and saying this without the fear of being judged, embarrassed, or intimidated.
I started thinking about what she said, that it’s better for my mom to be alone, rather than to be around my abusive father, or dad. This made me think, all over again, about the claim. Is it better to be stuck in bad company and maybe suffer, or simply stay alone and avoid the negative consequences of it. Or, do we stick to the tense situation of the bad company and try to fix this broken marriage, maybe help them make things better, to come to some agreement. It’s beautiful when you see students relating, not only to logical thinking, but to personal experiences and sharing stories that will shape their lives for the future and teach them about whom they should hang out with in the future. Who defines their community, friends, company, or family?
Dan Fouts 41:44
Yeah, that’s great. You’ve captured the other wonderful benefit of this protocol. I think that it gets kids to express their emotions and feelings about things. They personalize a lot of these themes, and you got that firsthand with that student. That says a lot about you as a teacher, Mirna, that you were able to create that environment of safety for that child to share that story, because that’s not easy to do as an educator. That’s really an inspiring story.
Mirna Madi 42:29
Yeah, that was in my advisor session, not in the English class. Since I attended the workshop with you, I’ve been using the tools that you attach with the conversation protocols. One of the questions I ask is, “How did this claim make you uncomfortable?” I read over this student’s answers to this quote, then when we talked about what she wrote, she shared this story. For me, this is rewarding as an educator to see a student having trust in their teacher. Knowing that they understand the reason why I challenge them so much is to bring the best out of them, and not to push any of their buttons and make them feel uncomfortable. It’s rather to make them rationalize, inquire, and make connections to see where they may have gaps in their understanding, and make more sense of any situation they’re dealing with.
Steve Fouts 44:00
Not to replace beliefs, but to strengthen them, or understand them better. You know, it’s so subtle. The minute the kids feel that from you, that’s when you really can make a lot of progress. They’ll come out, and remember you.
Dan Fouts 44:24
We as teachers become students in our own classroom, when these work well. I feel this energy from you, Mirna. You seem to have learned a lot from these discussions, as well from your own students, and that’s so rewarding for us.
Mirna Madi 44:44
I totally agree, because the challenge they pose to me is similar to the challenge I am introducing to them. In many cases, like this specific student, she outperformed the whole conversation because it’s like she gave me an epiphany. Seeing her weighing the outcomes of such decisions to get to a positive outcome is in itself a success. So, this process of thinking, questioning, debating, supporting the claim, and countering the claim led to this fruitful conclusion.
Steve Fouts 45:45
The process did it. I love it. That’s great.
Dan Fouts 45:49 – Essential Question
A couple other questions just popped into my head. If we’re still on the questions, what are our obligations to others, because we were talking about the morality of this.
Dan Fouts 46:07
Sorry, I interrupted. Steve, what were you going to say?
Steve Fouts 46:09
No, I haven’t really articulated my question, yet. There are so many. How do you know when you should be experiencing something, or avoiding it? What’s the criteria? You can reduce that to an actual person that you come into contact with. Is this person someone who is going to benefit me or fulfill me in some way, or is this person going to not be a good influence? How do you know that? Or can you know it without experiencing it?
Dan Fouts 47:02
Is this person worth my presence, or is it going to be bad for me?
Steve Fouts 47:08
But, that becomes dangerous in the sense that you don’t want to be judgmental by stereotyping people. That’s the argument. You should just experience it, and have that moral core where you can walk through villains in a village, and they’re not going to touch you, because you’re so strong in your beliefs. You don’t have to worry about that.
Dan Fouts 47:41
I was just saying, though, that you have to judge the company that you want to spend time around. Is their behavior so objectionable that you just cannot be part of it? How do you set the right criteria? What’s the best criteria to use to decide whether to be around others with whom you disagree? Yeah, that’s a lifelong question.
Steve Fouts 48:16
You need an escape hatch. You need a parachute. Wherever you’re going with them, if it gets bad, you need to be able to be alone.
Mirna Madi 48:28
Yes, because it deals with the idea of unpredictability and not knowing. The criteria can differ depending on the situation, the context, the location, the setting, and the way you deal with others. How do we know how to avoid them? I like rephrasing their answer as a question, so I said, “Nobody asked you to avoid them.” It goes back to trial and error, to what we mentioned earlier about exposure and experimenting. The more experience they have the more they learn the tricks of the trade or the clues. These clues tell me that I should avoid this danger zone. They recalculate, or reconsider, whether they want to be part of it or not.
Despite the fact that I always push for risk taking, I have rephrased it and added calculated risk taking. They should know how to handle the situation with the least negative consequences or with the least loss. But, at the same time, no, I’m arguing again, it’s so fulfilling to be part of a bad company, to learn about them, see where their behavior may be, so that I learned how not to imitate or emulate them. Staying in a bottle will not teach me. Staying in isolation will not make me grow. It’s through me being tense, and in challenging situations, that I can put all of what I’ve learned into use, and then I can make a sound and valid decision.
Steve Fouts 51:18
Right. I have to mention this. I know we’re at the end here, but Greek philosopher Plato, in his book The Republic, he talks about the leaders of society, which he refers to as guardians, the kind of the moral police. He talks about how you find these guardians, how you raise them, how you prepare them for society, because the last people you want to be bad, are the people who are the police overseeing the flock. He talks about the importance of placing guardians in the midst of very bad people when they’re very young, because that is the only way you can identify who is truly good. Whoever is around bad company, but ends up showing that they’re reliable and virtuous are people that the society can look up to for protection. Everyone else who’s not around bad company, they may be good, but you don’t know. So, it’s almost baked in. You need to be around the bad company to know who’s good. I just had to throw that out. It’s always been interesting to me to think about it that way.
Dan Fouts 53:04
In other words, you need the contrast.
Steve Fouts 53:09
There is no good without bad,
Dan Fouts 53:13
What is the proper balance between being alone and being in bad company? That’s another way of saying the counterclaim.
Steve Fouts 53:24
Dan Fouts 53:25
Well, okay, we’ve come to where almost done here.
Steve Fouts 53:27
We could talk forever, right, Mirna? You’re at the end of your school day, and for Dan and I it’s 5am. This is great. I’m awake now.
Mirna Madi 53:33
There is nothing more enriching, really, than having such intellectual talks with both of you. I mean, this is so insatiable.
Steve Fouts 53:51
Dan Fouts 53:52
Thank you. It’s been a pleasure, Mirna. We appreciate that you took our workshop, enjoyed it, are using the protocol and find value and meaning in it. We’ve really enjoyed this conversation today. We wish you the best and let’s stay in touch.
Mirna Madi 54:13
Sure. I would like to thank both of you. Steve, I would like to tell you that I’ve been taking notes of the questions that were posed again in this conversation. You gave me more food for thought and more prompts for generating other claims from this quote with the students to further test and help them think more, inquire more, and always seek different answers from around the world.
Steve Fouts 54:50
Dan Fouts 54:51
And you’ve done the same for us, so it’s reciprocal.
Mirna Madi 54:55
It actually ties very well with what you’ve titled your platform, Teach Different. This is what it means to teach different. We learn a lot through books, and they keep saying the cliche statement that information is at the tip of our fingers through the internet, plus we have all of these social networks, and ebooks, but having having a sustained mind to mind conversation that leads from one question to the other and one inquiry to the other will help them grow their cognitive abilities, and thinking skills. I tell them in class that your neurons multiply more and more through these conversations. This is how they become mature, wise, benevolent, and philanthropic global citizens.
Steve Fouts 56:07
Yes, that’s exciting.
Dan Fouts 56:11
On that note, thank you so much, Mirna for everything. We really appreciate you coming on our podcast and we can’t wait to get this ready to share.
Steve Fouts 56:22
Don’t be a stranger.
Dan Fouts 56:25
We can share it with the world.
Mirna Madi 56:27
Thank you so much.
Dan Fouts 56:29
Thanks, everybody. We hope you’re walking away feeling energized by some great ideas and have a sense of confidence that you too can master the art and science of conversations to make a lasting impact. We at Teach Different are dedicated to supporting you along that journey. Please visit teachdifferent.com to join the community of educators for additional resources and engaging discussion among fellow teachers and administrators, free for 30 days. We’ll see you there and next time from the Teach Different podcast. Take care.