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This I Believe

KUHF-Houston Public Radio’s “This I Believe” with Ferryn Martin

For more than 23 years, Ferryn has taught U.S. History to high school students in Houston I.S.D. After all that time, she still gets excited when talking about teaching. It’s clear that her profession remains a passionate priority and her students are the beneficiaries. Ferryn’s passion is on display in her essay where she describes her belief in the value of opposing views.



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Ferryn was born in Baytown and that’s where she was raised. She attended Abilene Christian College and then spent a few years in Chicago. In 1985, Ferryn came home to teach. She’s the youngest of four children with three older brothers. One brother teaches religious studies at Yale and another is in theatre. Once her essay was approved for our broadcast, Ferryn asked for their help editing the final version.

Here’s Ferryn Martin with her essay for KUHF’s This I Believe.
“I believe in dissonance. In a musical composition, there is a peace and satisfaction that comes from resolution after a dissonant chord. When a piece has no discord, it seems too simple and boring. Historically, difficult change has never taken place until some painful dissonance. Our country was founded by people who went against the status quo and produced years of dissonance. When I teach the Civil Rights Movement, the chapter is entitled “Voices of Dissent.” Martin Luther King, Jr. was criticized for going too far, too fast. Would any of us fault him for that now?

So why are so many people threatened by dissent? Why do so many leaders equate team work with unquestioning compliance? I believe these leaders are missing the boat. Those who stand behind the bumper sticker “America: Love it or leave it!” don’t really understand how and why America was founded. Perhaps simple questions warrant simple answers. Those are not the questions that interest me. The complex questions of today…how do we solve the problems in our environment? How do we achieve peace? How do we raise the standard of living for everyone? And the question that I personally struggle with is how do I challenge my students with rigor but at the same time make them feel successful? These questions have no simple answers. They require discussion. They require dissonance. They require many attempted solutions. Without those discussions, without the opportunity to disagree, we will reach no creative solutions.

Ultimately, leaders must make the final decisions. All institutions are not democracies. Democracies are inefficient and messy. All decisions cannot be made by all the people. After all, the buck stops at the desk of the President, the CEO or the principal. But if those leaders make difficult decisions without the input from all, they are not making the best decisions.

So I believe we should agree to disagree. I believe we should never be threatened by those who disagree with us. I believe we should thrive with dissonance. Through those discussions lay our best hope to solve the questions of our time.”