So you just have a lot of feelings…
I am one of the lucky few to be in our esteemed university president’s “Freedom of Speech and the Press” class this semester—or as it’s simply known on campus, PrezBo’s class. The guy is good—he knows his stuff, he’s not patronizing, and he has great hair.
In our first major discussion in the course, people contributed what they feel the law should be. After many comments, PrezBo finally said with a smirk, “I may be interested in what you, collectively or individually, feel about the law—but right now, I want to know what the law says.”
PrezBo brought up a very important point, one that needs to be articulated once and for all on the standards of class discussion: Feelings should not replace critical thinking.
Another seminar of mine focuses on policy—that is, political decision-making and political processes that lead to the implementation of successful public policy. Once, the issue of drug policy was introduced as a lens in discussion. Instead of discussing how policy can come to exist in states within a federalist system, the class broke out into a Who Has the Best Personal Story competition.
Sure, there’s a danger in using any explosive or divisive issue as a lens for a greater theme, but are we really so immature that we can’t divide our excitement to discuss a topic from its actual examination? Does everything have to have a personal story attached?
There’s a big difference between offering personal perspective and asserting an irrelevant opinion. From my CC class, I remember examples of both.
The most insufferable of the irrelevant opinions were the far-too-frequent battles over which groups were abandoned by social contract, and therefore are still the most marginalized by society today. Typically, I don’t think we ever came to a consensus, but as a Mexican-American Jewish female… I’m not even going to go there.
On the other hand, I can think of many times that personal perspective turned out to be a great addition to the class. It was amazing to hear from a football player who talked about growing up with three older sisters and how that has influenced his attitude toward women when we read Wollstonecraft. I enjoyed talking about variations in constitutions with people from my classes who were French, Dutch, Canadian, and Chinese. A girl from my Music Hum class shared a Korean national song with us that was her example of a masterpiece apart from our Western canon and I still listen to it often.
In the classroom, perspectives are great but personal opinions are not. It’s just as simple as the fact that not everything is about you. Straying from the material can be useful, interesting, and worthwhile, but not if it’s about your trip out of reality.
Leave a Comment
Be nice. Don't use HTML tags. And consider reading our full comment policy.