Opinion Forming

Opinions are hard to shake. People reach conclusions based on a variety of evidence, but most often they are influenced strongly by others in their lives. Parents, friends, co-workers, leaders all spread their views to others, who lovingly lap up every word (either that or swear at them).

How aware are teachers and parents that their viewpoints may be adopted forever by another person? Are they careful to implant the right thoughts at an early age? For example, supposing parents held racist beliefs, would they nevertheless try to hide them from their children? Of course not. And thus is propogated an endless cycle of belief, which becomes very hard to shake. In this way teenage suicide bombers are sent into the world.

Once a person forms an opinion, they seek others with the same viewpoint. People naturally group with others of the same beliefs. Thus political parties are formed, thus student drinking societies.

Perhaps the biggest effect of this is that people automatically read media which conforms to their world-view. Liberals read the Indy or Grauniad, Conservatives read the Torygraph. “Outraged of Market Deeping” will be happiest buried in the Daily Mail.

The first step to understanding is knowledge. Just once, I dare you, go out and read somebody elses newspaper.

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  1. Oliver Hall
    Posted February 2, 2006 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    I think teachers nowadays are actually quite good, particularly in RE/PSHE. I have observed a few classes recently where difficult issues were being discussed (abortion, euthanasia, heaven/hell) and was very impressed with the balanced, questioning approach that was taken.

  2. serena
    Posted February 2, 2006 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

    The funny thing is, my house has always bought the Torygraph on principle: the principle that you should read the news with the opposite bias from your own, so that you learn to distinguish facts and opinion :)

  3. Stefan
    Posted February 3, 2006 at 5:05 am | Permalink

    I buy the Daily Mail to reinforce my horrendously right-wing opinions, but I know enough to take it with a pinch of salt. My main source of news is really the left-leaning BBC Online, and I do buy the Grauniad at times.

    Re RE (lol see what I did there??!?!?!): I think having a bunch of kids “debating” totally defeats the point of the subject. The less said about RE in my school the better, as I don’t think anyone learned anything of value (discussing the ethics of nuclear warfare or homosexuality is nothing to do with it) in all five years of it. The GCSE course which we were all forced to study asked us to consider such lofty matters as “what Christians think of x”, as if the history of the most diverse of all faiths was one of total consensus, while it was surely a failure on the school’s part to put students through five years of the subject, only to have them most of them leave with no knowledge of the Reformation, the Oxford movement, what goes on in a Catholic/Anglican/Orthodox liturgy, or figures such as St Augustine, Aquinas, Cranmer, Luther, Calvin, and others. But they drummed the five pillars of Islam into our head in Year 8, and imparted an utterly one-sided, simplified, and uninspiring version of Christian doctrine as well, so I guess that makes everything okay!!

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