Treating Others with Dignity

By: John Cabra

I previously taught at the Center for Applied Imagination at Buffalo State University. Some years ago, I came across a situation involving graduate students who were enthusiastic about the creative studies program. Interestingly, even after completing all the requirements for their degrees, they chose to remain rather than move on as one might expect. I eventually understood the reasoning behind this phenomenon after delving into Donna Hicks’ body of work.

Donna Hicks is well-versed in treating individuals with respect, a concept she calls “dignity.” According to her, dignity involves recognizing the inherent worth of every person. When she asks, “What does it mean to treat others with dignity?” it evokes a familiar notion: the transformative potential of a creative environment governed by specific guidelines, much like the ones formulated by Alex F. Osborn for effective brainstorming. These guidelines encompass refraining from premature judgment, generating many ideas, embracing experimentation, and forging connections between concepts.

The principle of “refraining from premature judgment” operates on two levels. First, individuals refrain from hastily discarding their ideas; second, they refrain from immediately dismissing the ideas of others. “Generating a multitude of ideas” underscores the significance of each person’s thoughts, warranting the documentation of all suggestions. The tenet of “embracing experimentation” encourages sharing even the most audacious ideas. Lastly, “forging connections between concepts” signifies active listening and the act of building upon the contributions of others. By grasping and adhering to these guidelines, we can infuse our lives with enhanced creativity and engage with others in a congenial and inquisitive manner.

Donna Hicks formulated a document known as the “Dignity Declaration.” Within this compilation, she outlines how individuals should treat others with due significance. This compilation led me to reflect upon how educators like us foster a conducive atmosphere and employ regulations to facilitate students’ creative growth.

Hicks says if we all see each other as necessary, then we should all:
If we all value each other’s dignity, Hicks argues, then we are all worthy of:

…having our identity accepted, no matter who we are
…recognition of our unique qualities and ways of life
…acknowledgment—to be seen, heard, and responded to
…belonging and feeling included
…freedom and independence and a life of hope and possibility
…being safe and secure
…being treated in a fair and even-handed way
…being given the benefit of the doubt
…being understood
…an apology when someone does us harm

In our program focused on professional development for teachers, we engage in conversations and hands-on applications of these principles of dignity, emphasizing their tangible significance in our treatment of ideas.

The Institute for Myanmar United was created in 2020 to release the power of human creativity to help individuals, communities, and nations reclaim their freedom, unity, and hope.