Monday Musing: The Power of Language

Screen Shot 2019-01-22 at 12.00.16 PM.png

Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending Expeditionaries, an incredible social entrepreneurship bootcamp run by Basecamp and facilitated by my friend Christian Talbot and his partner, Patrick. Groups of high school students selected a civil rights issue they were passionate about (with Martin Luther King, Jr. as their inspiration), then ran through the design thinking process: interviewing users at the center of the issue, brainstorming ideas, and pitching final concepts that responded to those civil rights issues. Spoiler alert: the ideas were awesome, and the kids were incredibly impressive.

More to come on this experience, but one thing stuck out to me.

One of the student teams had developed a concept to combat recidivism; in their rehearsal pitch, one of the team members, referring to wrongfully accused criminals, used the term “those people” in a nervous moment in the presentation. Christian kindly but firmly corrected the student, reminding him that that simple phrase creates distance between groups of people, and suggests an othering that the students were essentially fighting in the first place. Christian mentioned that it’s a common phrase we often say without meaning anything by it, but it has the power to ostracize. The students listened thoughtfully, corrected their language, and delivered a great presentation.

This interaction got me thinking: about how two seemingly innocuous words can have significant impact, about how we engage with and redirect language, and about the power of a conversation like that to impact children’s choices in the future. Kudos to you, Christian, for pursuing language that is kind and inclusive, and reminding us all that we can do the same.

No Such Thing: a podcast interview

Monday Musing: The Choice is Yours