On Friday, Benenden was delighted to welcome Year 12 and 13 students from 20 visiting schools – including Queen’s College London, Christ’s Hospital, Cranleigh School and Cobham Hall – to join our Sixth Formers for a conference organised in collaboration with the Girls’ Schools Association and University College London, entitled The Art of Disagreeing Well.
The conference sought to encourage openness, tolerance and empathy in debate, in contrast to the divisive and censorious discourse that is often reported on and depicted in the social media age.
A range of workshops were lead by UCL Ambassadors on a variety of topics, including Listening with Curiosity and Words as Weapons, and example discussions were played out on the themes Should Free Speech Have Limits? and How to Disagree Well.
These were alongside talks from Danish author and sociologist Annette Prehn, and BBC Broadcaster Mishal Husain – amounting to a packed programme that encompassed a whole spectrum of different perspectives.
Students from visiting schools were extremely positive about the day, with Lauren B from Cranleigh School saying: “I think today was really fantastic in encouraging discussion between schools from all over the UK.
“The fundamental principles of what it means to disagree well were discussed in-depth throughout the day and it was really good for development, making nice connections and some new friends.”
Another visiting student added: “Today was really eye-opening in terms of listening to other people’s opinions instead of just regarding them as wrong.”
It is hoped that the Sixth Formers and our many guests will have learnt important lessons on processing and engaging with contrasting views in a mature and constructive way, and take their knowledge and skills back to their schools.
Sophie M, also from Cranleigh School, said: “I think everyone would agree that we’ve had a really memorable day. It’s something that we’ll never forget, and some really lifelong timeless lessons that we’ve learnt today we’ll take through with us for the rest of our lives.”