Through His Eyes…

Lately, I have stopped watching the news and reading the newspaper because I find it too painful. I realize however, that in doing so I have in essence locked myself into a one sided opinion unable to see or hear opposing options. I know better… I learned this lesson during a class I took while at Cambridge High and Latin High School (CHLS). What I learned back then was; to understand both sides of a conflict, you have to pursue all relative information on both sides without letting biases and assumptions cloud your judgment.

Debating Class

Below the auditorium …deep in the bowels of the old Cambridge High and Latin building back in 1972 there was a single room used for debating class.
I suppose it may have been used for other subjects like drama, chorus and music but you’d never catch me in any of those courses back then….just not my cup of tea.

Debating was taught by a flamboyant yet stately older gentleman named Mr. Robert Guest. He was always impeccably dressed, loud tie, designer suit, fine Italian shoes and smelled of floral scented cologne the filled the room and corridors of the often musty underbelly of the auditorium. I found it odd that a man would wear rose, jasmine, or gardenia cologne or that he’d venture into fruit scents such as peaches or berries but it marked a uniqueness (an opposition) about him that I would later appreciate versus what I found then to be odd.

For those of you that have never taken a debating class it is simply a course where students learn the art of formal discussion, where two sides present opposing viewpoints. Our classes usually consisted of each side given time to speak either for or against the topic at hand. Back then the Vietnam war, equal rights for woman, capitol punishment and race relations were like today some of the major topics of the day. I chose debating to improve my public speaking skills and to how to structure and present an argument. 

The Set Up

The assignment process for a debate topic is very important to the learning process. If you are given a topic that you feel passionately about it is easier to find supporting data and to structure and build your case presentation. The difficulty comes when your topic is one that you not only differ with but adamantly disagree with.

Mr. Guest would start his class with a casual question about a random topic… as an example: “Who believes all men and woman should treated exactly the same ” Which would lead to individuals being asked more pointed questions like… well then Mark… Should woman be compelled to serve the military… or Mary … if they are equal should woman be permitted to wear mens clothing and men wear woman’s clothing in the workplace? Mary would you wear pants…YES! Mark would you wear a dress? NO WAY! OK then why?

Just about then….all hell would break loose with strong opinions blasting out in every direction… It’s at this moment his genius as a teacher became apparent. By showing your colors on a topic he now understood what opposing viewpoint you needed to be assigned. In this way you had to learn others point of view and in that way learn to think critically and debate effectively regardless of your own view.

Jim Brown’s Eyes

During a training course years later I learned a very effective phrase that speaks to what I learned in Mr. Guest’s class:

“If you can see the world through Jim Brown’s eyes, you can sell Jim Brown what Jim Brown buys”.

Seeing the world through another’s lens is what we need to understand one another. Until this week, I’d forgotten what I learned in those dank, and cologne filled halls of the CHLS debating class. I thank Mr. Guest for his legacy of critical thought. I always believed that he was from another planet… his beliefs and lifestyle were so very antithetical to mine at that moment in my life…

Years later, I was surprised to learn that he not only wasn’t from another planet he lived on Magazine Street… blocks from my house, and so a essentially a neighbor. I guess back then I was only seeing the differences and it took a while to learn to see what we had in common. Thanks you Mr. Robert Guest

One thought on “Through His Eyes…

  1. Nick Diodati

    I remember Bob Guest from CHLS. I took Debating not because I wanted to learn how to debate but I needed the 2 easy credits that went along with the class. Nobody flunked, so it was 2 in the bank. Never knew he was in the neighborhood. Thanks again Don for the memories.

    Liked by 1 person

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