Essay topics: Claim: We can usually learn much more from people whose views we share than from those whose views contradict our own.
Reason: Disagreement can cause stress and inhibit learning.
Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the claim and the reason on which that claim is based.
The world is riddled with billions of people, each with a different background that shapes their view of life. With so many people on the planet, it is unrealistic to believe that disagreements could not occur. On a small scale, they may occur between two siblings arguing over a toy. On a large scale, wars are brought to mind. Without these disagreements, the world might be a more peaceful place, but our learning would stagnate and atrophy. In actuality, humans tend to learn more from conflict because it forces us to consider ideas we might have never thought of prior.
Humans have a tendency to grasp firmly onto beliefs, refusing to consider alternative views simply on the basis of stubbornness. However, a room full of like-minded people cannot grow – the idea will remain stagnant even as the world around it changes, until eventually it is no longer relevant at all. In contrast, when we discuss our views with those who oppose them, we can often learn much about the other side of the argument, which in turn informs our own thinking.
Many levels of education actually promote disagreement through a debate team, where a group of students voluntarily participate in a structured and organized discussion regarding controversial issues. Though at the end of the debate there is often a winning team, the point of this activity is to expand minds and broaden our scope of thinking. Speaking with proponents of the opposing side may bring to light issues that we haven’t even thought of before. Disagreements, however uncomfortable they may be, often are the turning points in ideologies. Without disagreements, a person may never venture to look beyond their beliefs, and thus never change.
In a heated situation, disagreements may escalate into full-blown arguments. When an argument becomes volatile, the disagreement is no longer conducive to learning; rather, our minds and bodies may become so overwhelmed that we seek to run from the enemy. Worse, we may even harm them in order to “win” the debate. This response is a product of our biology – our brain perceives stress and activates the “fight or flight” center of our brain, motivating us to get out of the situation as best we can. This kind of disagreement is definitely not conducive to learning, and it that sense, the argument is correct. However, not all disagreements intensify in this matter. If the participants are willing to set aside their feelings and peacefully discuss the issue at hand, our minds remain open to learning.
A room full of individuals with identical beliefs may indeed be the more pleasant environment. However, a group of people who are able to set aside their own personal emotions and discuss disagreements in a rational and calm way is ultimately the more knowledgeable group. Education is impossible without conflict – it is disagreement that forces us to learn about the theories, beliefs, and viewpoints of others. Engaging in disagreement broadens our worldview and forms us into well-rounded and more knowledgeable individuals.
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