Interview with Founder and Director Katie Orenstein in Columbia University’s “The Eye”

OEP Junior Fellow Ravenna Koenig interviewed Katie Orenstein for Columbia University’s The Eye on the importance of opinion forums in shaping thought leaders, what we can do to overcome our fear of putting our voices out for the world to hear and how youth expertise could enrich our public conversations. An excerpt of the interview is below:

As undergraduates, many of us are still working up the courage to put our ideas out to air in public, potentially facing fear of failure or criticism. What is the benefit of criticism in the public forum?

The thing about fear is that we all have it and it never really goes away. You want to shift the frame so that your life isn’t about fear, it’s about value. I used to teach literacy; they were all adults going back to school and they were the most amazing people. They read at a 6th grade level but they were people with deep life experiences and I thought we could get them something that had a more adult potential [like] Tuesdays with Morrie. I thought I would write to the author or the author’s agent and ask them to supply books for my literacy students. It’s something I never would have thought about doing, I would have been like, “is this a dumb idea? Should I do this?” The thing is, I looked at my students and I thought: they so deserve something that will address adult situations. Suddenly my entire conversation in my head was “I don’t care if this is a dumb idea, I don’t care what anyone thinks, they really deserve a book like that.” It just changed the way I though about it, and it changed the way I thought about almost everything afterwards. Fear of criticism is the same thing. If you are going to put yourself out there in the world in any way, if you say things or do things of consequence, there may be consequences. But the alternative is to be inconsequential. It’s a fundamental question of mattering.

And learning from criticism?
Ideas develop very slowly when left in one brain. The velocity of ideas and thoughts exponentially increases when you exchange them. Criticism is not bad. Criticism comes in all kinds of forms; sometimes it can be helpful to think of it as development of ideas.

The full interview can be read here

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