MARCO ISLAND — Wade Keller is expanding intellectual horizons on Marco Island.
A year ago Keller created Point…Counterpoint based on a similar group, the Center for Critical Thinking in Naples started by his friend, Bernie Turner. Point…Counterpoint brings residents together to discuss topics of interest including philosophical issues, world events, and, of course, political news.
More than a superficial chat session, this is a forum where individuals can express themselves in a deeper way on issues meaningful to them.
The key to in-depth discussions, said Keller, "is about having a personal self-awareness and a sense of critical thinking about what you think you think." He said that being a skeptic helps a person to see the other sides of issues. He believes that the concept of Point…Counterpoint could have benefits on a larger scale, beyond local discussions and possibly all over the world – and not only for exchange of information. During discussions, courtesy and open-mindedness to others is a priority and aids in the flow of positive ideas.
"We encourage people to treat everyone with respect and at the same time to develop the skill to stand up and speak out."
Keller moderates the discussions and last year the group spent the entire hour and half on one subject. This season he tried out a new format to allow more participation. For five minutes a person may speak on their "hot topic" and then answer questions for an additional ten to defend their point of view. Even if you're not a seasoned public speaker, Keller feels that everyone can give an impromptu talk for five minutes on subjects they feel strongly about.
The hour and a half allows six speakers to take to the podium in a relaxed atmosphere. No need to sign up before, just raise your hand if you have something to say. Some come prepared with notes and others speak spontaneously if their interest is sparked by a previous speaker.
"Just stand up and speak out," said Keller with a smile, "and then sit down." Besides being the moderator, he's the good natured timekeeper as well and holds up his cell phone timer when it's time to sit down.
The subjects are varied and the discussions following can be lively. Previous topics include Evolution vs. Intelligent Design, Federal Tax Code and who will win the presidential election.
Not surprisingly, the first topic of the afternoon at the Jan. 3 meeting was politics. Steve Reynolds spoke of politicians he'd known, the fiscal cliff talks and corruption in government.
Roy Stanford, a retired dentist, posed the question, "How many here are pleased with the direction of the US today?" (No one raised their hand.) Stanford brought up the idea that the wisdom and experience of older people can make a difference. He suggested a program bringing individuals with specialized expertise on the Island together to form a mentoring society for both young people and adults. This opened a brainstorming session on the merits and logistics of the proposal.
The NRA was the subject for Tom Menaker, as was the controversial printing of addresses of gun permit holders in some New York counties.
Keith Flaugh hadn't planned to speak, but took the opportunity to ask the audience to define "liberty" and went on to direct the discussion to the power of government, the Patriot Act and NDAA and FBI search warrants.
Sue Keller took the mike and brought up several issues that hadn't been addressed – the mishandling of our tax dollars spent on unnecessary programs, and how she feels that the newly elected politicians change by the time they get to Washington. She spoke from her heart of the need to take better care of returning military families and to improve our education system.
Not everyone feels the need to speak, but all are welcome to sit and listen. Wade Keller hopes everyone will take away an understanding of different points of view and to use the discussions to explore their own feelings about issues.
"It's easy to give a five minute speech," he said, "but it can be harder to answer the questions. The wonderful thing you can learn from this group is what are the challenges to this strong thing that I feel? The mindset to me is to think about things a little bit deeper, and question how strongly you really feel about it."
Sue Keller agreed. "If you stir up something passionate in each other's lives, it's beneficial."
IF YOU GO
First Thursday of each month November through April
1:30 – 3p.m., YMCA Gymnasium