Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Forming and Defending Opinions

Objective of Opinions Class
Forming and Defending Opinions functions to teach students to do exactly that: form and defend opinions. Many students may not even realize that they’re entitled to opinions. They may think opinions are something that only belong to their parents, professors, and whoever writes their textbooks.
This class will also help students be mindful of the way they process information, what they do with it once they receive it, what significance the information has in different aspects of their lives. We do this constantly, subconsciously, but I believe that this should be a conscious process.

Why I Feel This Class Is Necessary
We receive and are subjected to all kinds of information in our lives--in commercials, in the tabloids, in the news. I believe it is our human obligation to use the brains that we are given and to form our own opinions and know where we stand on social issues that affect us.
However, I believe the school system is structured in a way that discourages students from doing just this--having thoughts and opinions, questioning the information they are given. Rather, they are taught to memorize it, know it for the test and regurgitate opinions in the textbook as their own. Research papers are assigned, explicitly instructing children not to use the pronoun I or me. God forbid they state their own opinion on a topic they’ve been researching for weeks.
Why should anybody feel reluctant to speak up for their beliefs? I worry this has everything to do with our growing dependency on social media. Everything we say is set in stone. The second you click comment, send or publish, your word is out there, on the record, and inevitably met with opposition.
Society needs to learn how to respectfully disagree. To have opinions means you disagree with someone. There will always be someone out there to challenge your beliefs, but there’s no need to impose one’s own beliefs on others. There should be an understanding on both sides that everybody is entitled to their own opinions, and that involves communication and respect. We need to be informed about the opposition to the causes we support, and know where the other side is coming from and why they feel the way they feel, as they are have every right to do, so we accept and understand our differences.

In the wise words of Amy Poehler:
"If you can speak about what you care about to a person you disagree with without denigrating or insulting them, then you may actually be heard, and you might even change their mind."

Possible Assignments, Lessons & Activities
I suggest students create a blog on which they publish their reactions and opinions on a topic of their choice, anything they’re passionate about, whether it be sports, celebrities or politics. Reviewing movies, shows and novels is perfectly acceptable as long as it is done from a critical perspective. Maybe they evaluate their education, not unlike myself, a topic I highly recommend, given the fact that any student is an automatic expert on the subject.
Weekly assignments would consist of analyzing and responding to relevant articles, events and interviews. On the subject of education, an event could simply be a day at school, maybe a lecture that upset you or stood out to you. React to it, and be informative about it. Back opinions up with facts. If you believe something could have been said or done differently, what alternative do you suggest and why? Since there’s no point in criticizing something if you can’t offer a solution or suggestion to improve the situation. As the entries are submitted, students would receive detailed feedback from their teachers. Students’ grades would reflect how well they apply this feedback in future entries.

The professor would also assign articles and interviews on various topics for students to collectively respond to and discuss as a class. This can easily be done on Google Docs using the comment feature. The professor simply shares the document with all the students’ gmail accounts. Accepting this invitation enables them to comment on the document as well. Students would be graded on the depth of their responses to other students’ comments. This is a highly interactive assignment and would teach students to present respectful and informed rebuttals to the discussion or debate.

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