Your Opinion is Wrong

Will Slater A couple of weeks ago, Ms. Rodriguez set forth a goal to the student body: that we must engage in respectful and constructive discourse, value one another’s opinions, and stand as models for our community and the communities around us. A week later, at convocation, seniors and confused kindergarteners alike heard about Mr. Dunn’s promising vision of Latin students as well-rounded learners, willing to take risks and ask questions. Given this goal, it makes perfect sense that Latin would bring in Imagination Theater to model good discussion habits. The performance was engaging and funny, but, at the same time, the messages and questions to the audience were basic to the point of being pandering. Imagination Theater, despite a noble effort, ultimately missed the point. Latin kids don’t struggle to have productive discussions because we’ve never been taught the techniques to do so; we struggle because we are yet to rise above the society that has made us. Even politicians don’t know how to talk about politics, much less world issues. Take, for instance, the presidential debates. The success of a candidate in a debate rests mostly on the ability to regurgitate clever, memorized one-liners. The sway these snappy lines have depends on timing, delivery, and, of course, the newspaper headlines the next day. Abandoned in this hectic process is any actual discussion, difficult questions, or demand for a policy explanation. Needless to say, it’s understandable why Latin kids struggle to have productive discussions. Sure, good techniques are generally practiced in the classroom, but the unregulated debates that take place in the halls or cafeteria or library are beyond anyone’s control. Changes won’t occur simply by a theater group asking students if yelling at others is good or bad. The issue remains that intelligent debate can’t take place until we become better informed, more open-minded, and willing to accept one’s right to an opposing arguments. All of that said, it’s worthwhile to remember that not all opinions are created equal. Ms. Hennessy asked an important question during the assembly, something to the effect of “is it ever okay not to say ‘I hear you,’ to not accept someone else’s opinion as valid?”   It’s a ridiculous notion that two contradictory opinions should always be treated as equally legitimate. Some opinions are based on facts, and some aren’t. Some are ethical and fair, and some defined by prejudice or hate. Some stories have far more than two sides, and some only have one. Take, for instance, the model discussion done by Imagination Theatre on immigration As one freshman bravely pointed out, an “opinion” of millions of Americans, and echoed by an actor on stage, that immigrants are taking the jobs of Americans and hurting the economy is simply wrong. Left unchecked, rogue opinions like these can quickly dismantle a productive discussion. At our school, we have both rights and responsibilities, freedoms and obligations. Yes, we are entitled to our opinions, but there is an unwritten duty to make those opinions substantive and constructive. Ms. Rodriguez’s vision of respectful discourse and inclusion in our community, will only exist in a school that will listen to all ideas, but hear only the legitimate. ]]>