A CHA tradition, which appears without explanation on the yearly calendar, is the three-time per year High School Great Books "Panel Discussion". These occur on the first CHA day after a lengthy break. (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter) Since we do not assign homework or reading (unless it be a devotional reading from Scripture) it is difficult to hold a Great Books class on the first day back from holiday as the class is rooted in discussion of a shared reading. What then is the best use of this class time on these three academy days?
Enter the Panel discussion!
For well over a decade now, the Great Books tutors, often accompanied by one student from each high school grade level, have spent this first class period post-break, modeling discussion of a short reading they did over that break. Sometimes the reading is a short story, but it could also be a poem, a reading from Scripture (it is always this once per year), or a brief piece of philosophy. The modeling of discussion is the key idea. The art of conversation is one learned over time and with experience. Some of us talk too much (me!). Some do not say enough. Some are active listeners and some become disengaged. Nevil's comment above indicates what we hope for our Great Books classes and for the formation of students in good conversation habits. Our desire is that students learn the appropriate time to speak and the appropriate time to listen. We want them to learn the appropriate time to ask a question, draw a conclusion, or help a fellow student find their way through a difficult line of argument.
The Panel Discussion is an opportunity for tutors to demonstrate what authentic conversation, dialogue, disagreement, searching for common ground, and active listening all look like. It is a chance to discuss many pieces of important literature that fall outside of our curriculum. Finally, it is something to which all parents are invited and encouraged to attend. It could potentially provide tools for conversation at the dinner table, in the car, and any other place you might talk with your teens.
This is part of the Board Bits: Tips, Tricks, and Hacks series.
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