Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Effective and Responsible Communication

To be effective at communication, we need to define two terms, often confused with each other: these terms are power and authority. Both power and authority are often naively defined as having control over others. Power, however, has nothing to do with others. Power can be defined as the control that we exercise over ourselves. Power is granted to each individual by virtue of the fact that we are human beings and deserve respect and deserve the opportunity to exercise some control over our own lives. If one tries to exercise power over another, this is very unhealthy and is really about trying to control another. Authority, on the other hand, can be defined through relationships and is granted by social structure, and therefore comes with a great deal of responsibility. In its healthiest form, authority is a partnership in which all people involved, leaders and followers, understand their roles and through that partnership live a productive and creative life. The Harriton Banner, Harriton High School's newspaper, of which I am faculty adviser, recently published an article that made everyone feel very uncomfortable. Some might view this as exercising power over a community by telling it something that is very uncomfortable to hear. By this definition, the newspaper places itself in position over the community and becomes nothing more than a preachy institution, the type of institution that over-populates our society as it is. Yet, The Harriton Banner exercises no power if it is to be a vital part of our community. It is, however, granted authority by the school district and community that it serves. The paper also is granted authority by various Supreme Court rulings on freedom of the press. With this heavy authority comes heavy responsibility. My hope is, that by publishing a challenging article, that we do not set ourselves above our community, but honestly share in the joys and challenges of a community to which we belong and to which we owe our authority.


Miss H~ said...

Wow, it seems like you have a world-class challenge on your hands! I'm glad that you are taking it head on, though, and allowed the article to be published even though it was challenging.

I think it's an important for kids and adults alike to learn the difference between authority and power, as you pointed out (great definitions, by the way!). There are a lot of adults who have trouble grasping these concepts as history has shown. I really appreciate that you are addressing these issues directly.

P.S. Thanks for the nice words about my post. I'm a new blogger and somewhat shy about sharing my writing. Your kind words were a great encouragement.

P.S.S. I'm not sure if you realized, but I'm Emily from the VHS class. I decided to follow your blog as I'm often inspired by what you have to say in discussion. The blog you read, isn't actually the one I did for class- but I'm glad you got to see it any way. I look forward to following yours.

Peter said...

Hey Emily. Yup, I did. Amazing class.