Saturday, July 14, 2012

YOUR opinions ... should I take them seriously?

A new Obama TV ad brings to the public a series of statements made by Mitt Romney - statements that are clearly FALSE. The ad cites sources, making sure the viewing public knows where the Obama campaign folks got the information to back up the "Romney didn't tell the truth" assertion.

I love reading the comments section.  One of the comments was written by LaVaughn Moyer Jennings of Clyde, Ohio.  Since this woman put her comment on a public forum, I most assuredly can use it here.  The quote:

"Need to tell about all the crooked stuff the idiot in the W.H. has done.. I think you need to clean up your own act before you degrade other people...."

Yes, that is Jennings' opinion.  But how in the world can I take it seriously?  Really ... how can anyone take it seriously?

Jennings doesn't give one example of "crooked" ... she doesn't give specifics, information, details.  She makes claims she did not back up with any support, any evidence, any sign of rational thought process.  She doesn't give us a reason to take her opinion seriously.   

Even my high school students know better than that!

From the dictionary:  o-pin-ion  n. 1. A belief or conclusion held with confidence but not substantiated by positive knowledge or proof

It happens every year.  A student voices an opinion and that's when things change in my classroom.  Example ... I gave a simple essay assignment due the next day.  Here is the classroom exchange:

Student:  "That sucks!"

Me:  "Why does it suck?"

Student:  "What do you mean?"

Me:  "That is an opinion and I can't take your opinion seriously if you don't explain the rationale behind that opinion.  What facts did you use to determine that the assignment sucks?"

Student:  "I don't know what you mean."

I told him to think about it, that I wouldn't respect his opinion until he answered my questions.  Fast forward a half hour:

Student:  "I know why the assignment sucks!  I have to work tonight and I'll be tired when I get home from my shift at 8pm.  It'll be harder for me to write."

Me:  "NOW I understand and respect your opinon!  I disagree with you - this essay is only three simple paragraphs - but you've given me reason to take you seriously.  If you don't want to write the essay tonight, then come in at lunch and do it today."

After an exchange like that (one that I make sure happens every year), my students will begin to SUPPORT their opinions.  In fact, when a student utters a free-for-all opinion, another student will call out, "Where's your support?"

I try to make sure I support my opinions so people know what reasoning, what facts, what information pointed me in that direction.  And I don't mind someone asking me if I neglected to do so.

So ... LaVaughn Moyer Jennings ... you have every right to say what you want.  Now, if you want any credibility at all, if you want to be taken seriously, if you want anyone to give a rat's patoot about your opinions ... take a lesson from my students.

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