“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” FDR – Fear
How do we know when we should be afraid?
Fear is an emotion we can all identify with. Fear causes stress and discomfort, and makes us do things we would not otherwise do. People react to fear in different ways. Some remain calm; others lose control of their mind which causes even more distress. Dealing with fear in productive ways is an important life skill that helps us manage stress.
Join Steve and Dan Fouts for an unforgettable conversation about fear using the Teach Different 3-Step Method.
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Image source: Bill of Rights Institute
Steve Fouts: 00:02
Hey everybody, Steve and Dan Fouts here. We are teaching different with American president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, with a quote about fear. I’m sure you’ve already heard the quote, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” This quote is cutting to the heart of something that we all experience. What I like about it is that it brings in the mental aspect. Dan, what would you add?
Dan Fouts: 00:36
I think the interesting part about fear, and why it’s such a difficult thing to get a hold of, is that when you’re afraid of something you’re never quite sure whether or not you’re making it up in your mind or if you actually have a legitimate reason to be afraid. Sometimes it’s a combination of something that you should probably be afraid of but then your mind spins it out of control and makes it worse than it is. I think everybody can connect.
Steve Fouts: 01:19
Well, what claim would you say he’s making?
Dan Fouts: 01:23 – Claim
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” It’s as if FDR is saying that fear is a state of mind that we have, and what we have to be afraid of is letting it consume our mind, to fear letting our mind go out of control to the point that we make something worse than it actually is.
Steve Fouts: 01:54
Yeah, I think the word control is key here. He’s saying that we need to control our fear. This idea of fear being a mentality is appropriate for the coronavirus crisis, because the virus itself is invisible, your mental fear is invisible. You can’t see what it is that you’re afraid of, but you have this mental decision and feeling that you’re going to be afraid.
Dan Fouts: 02:29
Right, when you see people you’re afraid, you touch something and you’re afraid, you feel symptoms of a cough, and you’re afraid. It’s like it’s all around you.
Steve Fouts: 02:41
So, I agree with you that the claim he’s really making here is that you’ve got to grab control of that and then hopefully you don’t make it worse than it already is. What’s the push back to this? What’s the counterclaim?
Dan Fouts: 03:00 – Counterclaim
I think one way to look at the counterclaim is to say fine, maybe I’m thinking too much, and I need to control my mind, but when something really bad and tragic is happening, then I should be afraid. If people in my community are becoming sick with the coronavirus, then I should be afraid enough to change my behavior. It’s not just in my mind.
Steve Fouts: 03:33
Now I’m thinking it’s real, right?
Dan Fouts: 03:37
Steve Fouts: 03:38
During this pandemic, the party goers and spring breakers weren’t afraid at all. They were in control of themselves, but they were putting other people and themselves at risk by doing that.
Dan Fouts: 03:54
And, they’re making us afraid of them.
Steve Fouts: 03:55
Then it just multiplies and gets out of control. With the counterclaim, it’s this idea that a little bit of fear and anxiety can check your behavior in positive ways that help keep you safe.
Dan Fouts: 04:12
To push this conversation along, I think it’d be great to prompt the kids to share a time when they were really afraid. What were they afraid of and why were they afraid? Did your thinking about the fear make it worse? How did it make it worse? For other kids in class, who might not be as fearful, try to draw them out by asking them to talk about a time when they remained calm in the midst of a fearful situation.
Steve Fouts: 04:55
Dan Fouts: 04:56
How were you able to do that?
Steve Fouts: 04:59
If you’re using this conversation during the coronavirus, one thing you could ask is if they find themselves being more fearful now that they’re more isolated and distancing themselves from other people, or are they more comforted by that? That would be an interesting thing to have them share.
Dan Fouts: 05:22
Yeah, what have they been afraid of during the coronavirus pandemic?
Steve Fouts: 05:29 – Essential Question
Exactly. Well, here’s an essential question you can ask to close up the conversation. How do we know when we should be fearful?
Dan Fouts: 05:44
In terms of a curriculum connection, I think talking about the virus outbreak would be a really good subject matter, for all the reasons that we talked about. Of course, you could use this quote when teaching World War II and how FDR was dealing with Germany and Pearl Harbor before getting into World War II. It would be an interesting essential question for a conversation to get the kids personally invested in this idea of fear, before they learned about World War II. Then they will have a personal investment in what they’re learning. I think either one of those would work really well.
Steve Fouts: 06:37
Yeah, I think those would be really good curriculum connections. Fear being this state of mind that you may or may not be able to control and whether that’s good for you to control. Some interesting themes could be addressed.
Well, that’s it with FDR and the quote about fear. We hope you enjoyed it and we’ll be back soon with another quote and conversation. Visit our Conversation Library to check out more conversations using our 3-step method, plus resources to help you have great conversations in your classroom. We will see you soon. Take care everybody.
Dan Fouts: 06:55
See you everybody.