October 22, 2008

Opinions Based on Reason and Evidence Must be Shared

What do you think a teacher should do when confronted by a controversial issue? There are those who say that we have to be objective and not "impose our own bias" on the students. But, I think such an approach misses the point of education.

We're paid to have a professional opinion. We've spent lots of time & energy thinking, researching, formulating theories and views. Yes, we don't always agree--and that's good. But, we do exchange our ideas in the currency of reason. An intellectually honest person has to accept the evidence and the rhyme of reason.

There are several issues that divide our society, namely on matters of politics and religion, and, in the US, science! Take the latter, for example. There's a consensus in the scientific community on most important subjects, like evolution--one of the strongest scientific theories we've got. Should we, as educator, shy away from offering an opinion? The earth is not a few thousand years old as many Americans (and sadly several leaders) believe. Should we say, "well, there are two sides to this story"?!!!

Personally I think we've given too much respect to views and people who don't deserve any. There's widespread ignorance, so by often avoiding controversy or challenging false ideas we allow ignorance to persist. The academia should be a place for free discussion and learning. Often you learn by revising, amending, and accepting the reasonable. Some of our great successes as a human species came because some brave persons challenged the status quo and the "wisdom" of the "tried & true."

Being objective doesn't mean we can't have a strong opinion or that we shouldn't express it for the fear of offending others. The earth isn't flat; it's old and wasn't created in 7 days. This is a scientific fact and until someone with a better argument and evidence to back it up comes along, this view is a fact!

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