Embrace an ‘I see!’ attitude
Paula Olivares had me with her when she listed the topics her sister’s composition teacher assigned his students to write about (Letter: College class trying to change beliefs). The topics clearly seemed phrased to lead students to see American policies through a negative lens. I agree that it’s not appropriate for any teacher to push students toward a particular, subjective view of issues that can’t be resolved objectively, or of issues whose history is recorded only in part, and often by subjective writers.
But she lost me when she declared that her sister stayed in the class because she was “literally … the only voice of truth that these students could hear.”
We’re experiencing a culture where lots of us want to claim, “I’m right and you’re wrong.” We’re missing the middle ground where we put our “truths” aside and ask the other person: “Tell me what makes you believe that, and I’ll tell you why I believe my way.” Maybe we can get a clearer picture if we listen to each other and if we examine the evidence that supports our own beliefs and those held by others.
Is there an absolute “right” to any non-data-supported issue? Probably not. Was Robert E. Lee a traitor to America because he chose to defend a lifestyle that he grew up with? Maybe he was just a human being. Is wearing a mask in public a useless practice? Maybe so, but until we have more complete data, why not go with the prevalent data that suggests they do some good?
We’re in danger of civil disruption when we can’t consider the possibility that one of our cherished “truths” may not survive the scrutiny of data. We need to drop the lens of “I believe” and put on the glasses that help us say “I see!”
Learning how to think
I want to thank Paula Olivares for her letter to the editor on July 16, 2020. The letter was about how a professor was teaching his or her students to think for themselves. She was uncomfortable with the information being presented to students and didn’t like that the students had to write about what they thought of the information.
The information was about America invading other countries, a different view of Thanksgiving, thoughts on legalizing prostitution, and the “untold” history of American presidents. All of these topics were ones that perhaps the student had not known or thought about before. Having contact with information and views you had not run into before is an interesting and strengthening exercise.
How boring would the world be if everyone thought exactly the same thing. Everyone does not think the same thing and it is important for students to be able to handle new information, analyze the information and decide if they want to alter their own views.
Encountering new information is uncomfortable for some, but people will always encounter new information and it is important to be able to handle new information.
I think that what the professor was doing was not disgraceful but was of benefit to his or her students.