A Student Perspective on Communicating Common Ground

Communicating Common Ground: A Student Perspective
By Alex Reczkowski '03

When I first heard about Communicating Common Ground, I took a step back to those wonderful days of fifth and sixth grade. Yes, all the way back to when adding that second digit to my age was quite an accomplishment, when I knew I was already such an adult. The world was a crazy place, and yet I thought I understood it all. If not, my friends could help me with the answers to all of the important questions: what kind of clothes are cool to wear, who is popular enough to be our friends, and even how to think about drugs and abortion and religion. Suddenly, I realized that though my world of middle-school cliques seemed so right to me as a fifth and sixth grader, it now appears sadly misguided. As my world has grown beyond little old Ringtown, Pennsylvania, I've realized just how prejudiced I honestly was. I certainly would never have admitted it at the time; I didn't even know it at the time. I had all of the "right answers." I knew that I shouldn't judge people for their accidental characteristics, but should rather accept them for the people they are inside.

Unfortunately, as I look back, I see that I was more than "practicing." In my sheltered town, most exposure to African-Americans, Asian folks, non-Christians, homosexuals, and even truly physically handicapped people came from television. Moreover, I lived in a culture where angry or thoughtless slurs rolled too easily off of too many tongues, and, though I knew there was something very wrong with such words and the thoughts they represented, I wasn't strong enough to stand up and fight them. Here's where the beauty of Communicating Common Ground comes in. When reason cannot instruct, custom must be the guide. So, CCG worked on establishing the habit or custom of acceptance. By emphasizing diversity between and among groups, we put our concepts to work. The activities practiced not only acceptance of but also appreciation normal diversity, pointing out the differences when similarity was obvious and vice versa. Therefore, we have not only reinforced the theory of acceptance, we have also established the practice of acceptance. We learned to put those "right answers" to work for the students, for ourselves, and for the community.