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How often to people do something just to elicit a response? Some people do it and get paid for it — like journalists, comedians, politicians, teachers, ministers/preachers, parents… It can be a useful tool if the goal is to elicit a positive response, encourage reflection, supply a reality check.

We see it used all the time, particularly in the political arena, just to elicit reactions — whether or not the nature of the issue is valid or not. Just to keep the pot swirling, people will throw out selected truths, half truths, or mere speculations, just to keep people reacting and having an emotional response.

As a teacher, it’s a great tool to use in a classroom to lead children and teens to more deeply think about a topic — even if what the teacher says is controversial or argumentative (in an non-threatening way). The older children are, the more they can begin to form opinions — which should be backed up by facts or research, and a good opposing position. (This is why I like debating which seems to have gone by the wayside in lots of high schools.) Students should be encouraged to seek out information to support their thoughts, rather than just writing a report on the way things are. How should things be? Is the accepted way of doing things the best way? For instance, was Columbus coming to the Americas a good thing or bad? (It was bound to  happen, but is celebrating Columbus Day appropriate?)

When I was still teaching computers in a parochial school, we did a PowerPoint presentation addressing the question (in teams of about 6) which addressed the question, “Should genetic testing be required on all children at birth to discern what future health problems they may encounter, or should it be optional?” There was such a proposal made. The eighth grade students really had to think about the far-reaching effects of such testing, not only on the child and family, but on health care, insurance, and society in general. This coincided with a unit they were doing in science on genetics. So the presentation took the curriculum one step further. Some strong responses were elicited from students who really “got” the implications of the project.

As human beings we often try to elicit responses from other; it’s a natural part of human interaction. Sometimes we do just the opposite, as in job interviews, when the tables are turned! Sometimes you want a response, and other times it’s best to just listen and hear.