Pupils given lessons in listening sparked by ‘poor example’ of Brexit debate
Pupils are learning how to hone their negotiating skills at an event prompted by the “poor example” set by those involved in the Brexit process.
Lisa Kerr, headteacher of Gordonstoun School in Moray which is hosting the three-day event, said the school has been appalled by the “aggressive and confrontational tone” being adopted by world leaders.
Pupils attending the Learning to Listen symposium from Thursday to Saturday will be urged not to follow the example set by politicians during the Brexit debate and instead develop better listening and understanding skills in order to negotiate successfully.
Youngsters from across Britain have been invited to the free event, including children living in some of the most deprived areas of the country.
Ms Kerr said: “We have been appalled by the aggressive and confrontational tone increasingly adopted by world leaders.
“As a school founded by a Jew who fled Germany under persecution of the Nazis, and which has always welcomed students from diverse backgrounds, we strongly believe that it is possible for people with different perspectives to reach a common understanding.
“We want to teach the leaders of tomorrow that empathy and understanding are the keys to find solutions with which everyone can feel settled; it is fine to disagree but there are better ways to express your opinion which will help all parties to reach a successful resolution.
“We have been teaching dialogue to our own students for several years now through the Gordonstoun Dialogue Society, but we are very keen to share this practice more widely and are delighted that schools from across the country are joining us for these three days of Learning to Listen.”
The event is being led by Gordonstoun teacher James Smith, who has a masters degree in peace and conflict and was part of the UN peacekeeping mission to Haiti.
He said: “The art of dialogue is very different to the art of debate. It is not about winning an argument but about understanding your opponent’s point of view so that you can reach the best outcome for all.
“This requires listening and empathy, essential skills which will help these students throughout their lives, whether or not they choose to become the politicians of the future.”
One of the participants is Rachel Thomson, 16, from Govan High School in Glasgow.
She said: “I feel political debate at the moment is very argumentative and I don’t feel inspired by it.”
The teenager said some political leaders “can give the wrong impression and cause divisions in society”, and added: “There could be more co-operation and collaboration in order to come to a balanced decision. If there was more middle ground in the ideology, we’d have better policies implemented.”