Contemplative Practice in a Course on Arguing as an Art of Peace

Presented by Barry Kroll, Professor of English at Lehigh University

Originally broadcast on Thursday, April 10, 2014


Barry Kroll writes, “For the past seven years, I’ve been teaching a course that asks first-year college students to consider the following question: How can arguing—so often associated with controversy and conflict—be practiced as an art of peace? I use the figures of the closed fist and open hand to represent different approaches to argument: one adversarial, the other conciliatory. My focus is on the open hand, a rich gesture that signals peaceful intentions but also lends itself to further analysis, since it can function as an instrument of contact, connection, and control.

Students explore the open hand by studying principles of mediation and conflict resolution; in addition, they get a feel for the open hand by practicing movements derived from the martial arts, especially those arts where an open hand receives an opponent’s aggressive energy, controls it, and then leads the conflict in a new direction, toward cooperation. I also incorporate exercises in sitting meditation, rapid centering, everyday mindfulness, and focused attention in my classes on Arguing as an Art of Peace. In the webinar, I will explore connections between these contemplative practices and the primary goal of my course, which is to enable students to argue with an open hand.

My talk will be supported by excerpts from journal entries my students made during the course, entries where they recorded—candidly and insightfully—their responses and reflections.”

About the Presenter

Barry KrollBarry Kroll has taught English for nearly forty years, at several universities. For the past two decades he has been the Robert Rodale Professor of Writing at Lehigh University, where he teaches a variety of writing, rhetoric, and literature classes. In the course of his career he has conducted research on the development of children’s composing abilities, explored the problem of “audience” for writers, written about a college course on the literature of the Vietnam War (Teaching Hearts and Minds, 1992), and most recently published a book about his course “Arguing as an Art of Peace” (The Open Hand, 2013). This recent book draws together his enduring interest in argumentation with about 15 years of contemplative practice and a decade of training in aikido, often called “the art of peace.”

He participated in the Summer Session on Contemplative Pedagogy (Center for Contemplative Mind in Society) in 2007 and has regularly attended retreats and conferences organized by the Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education (ACMHE). He also participated in a seminar on contemplative pedagogy at Naropa University (2008).


  1. Melanie on May 4, 2014 at 11:59 pm

    Hello, I’d love to listen to some of your webinars but I’m unable to get any audio or to find anything to click on. Are these available as recordings online or do you have to listen to them live at a certain time? Many thanks, Melanie

    • Carrie Bergman on May 5, 2014 at 2:04 pm

      Hi Melanie,
      Yes, you can watch the video recordings of our webinars. A video is included in each post in our webinar archive, or can you view the videos on our Vimeo channel, at

      All best,
      Carrie Bergman, webmaster

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