Presented by Barry Kroll, Professor of English at Lehigh University
Originally broadcast on Thursday, April 10, 2014

Barry Kroll writes, “For the past seven years, I’ve been teaching a course that asks first-year college students to consider the following question: How can arguing—so often associated with controversy and conflict—be practiced as an art of peace? I use the figures of the closed fist and open hand to represent different approaches to argument: one adversarial, the other conciliatory. My focus is on the open hand, a rich gesture that signals peaceful intentions but also lends itself to further analysis, since it can function as an instrument of contact, connection, and control.

Students explore the open hand by studying principles of mediation and conflict resolution; in addition, they get a feel for the open hand by practicing movements derived from the martial arts, especially those arts where an open hand receives an opponent’s aggressive energy, controls it, and then leads the conflict in a new direction, toward cooperation. I also incorporate exercises in sitting meditation, rapid centering, everyday mindfulness, and focused attention in my classes on Arguing as an Art of Peace. In the webinar, I will explore connections between these contemplative practices and the primary goal of my course, which is to enable students to argue with an open hand.

My talk will be supported by excerpts from journal entries my students made during the course, entries where they recorded—candidly and insightfully—their responses and reflections.”

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