Monday, June 10, 2019

What are the Pros and Cons of Today's Most Controversial Issues? Here's a Place to Start

Have you ever held a position on an issue and wondered why or how anyone could hold the contrary position? Or, have you ever held a position on an issue in which everyone seemed in opposition to your personal convictions?

Well, here's a great resource that might help you gain insights on how the other side thinks. Or, if seeking rhetorical firepower it could give you ammunition for what your gut has been telling you all along. (Read on.)

When not listening to audio books I occasionally would have National Public Radio (NPR) on during my lunch hour as I drove to and from wherever I was eating that day. For a period of time (and maybe still, I don't know) they would have a Friday debate on various issues with two people for and two people against a proposition on this or that contemporary issue. If I remember correctly, they would poll the audience before the debate and then again afterwards. The team that influenced the most audience members to the cross the divide would be declared winner.

What I liked about it was how it showed the listening audience that even the most controversial issues can have two sides. Whether capital punishment, concealed handguns, banning books or the relevance of the electoral college, all kinds of issues have smart people on opposite sides of the coin.

In their book The Coddling of the American Mind, Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff note the polarization that has been occurring in our contemporary culture, and how unhealthy it is on several levels. On many college campuses it seems that kids want to only hear one point of view on things, concluding that any view beyond my own is illegitimate, nonconstructive, invalid, not worth consideration and harmful. 

This last point is a major point of the book. In our efforts to raise the current generation in a "safe" way we have made them so fragile that they may have a hard time when they get into the real world of hard knocks.

This singleminded group-think is not just college kids. It has become pervasive in all age groups and demographics. As I have noted elsewhere, citing Eric Hoffer and Orwell, it makes the masses easier to manipulate when they can be induced to clump together in fear in an Us vs. Them stance. 

What the writers of Coddling note is that college used to be a place where students were taught How to think, not What to think. Today this fundamental idea is being challenged on many campuses. Hence the student riots and protests designed to keep certain speakers out these past few years.

I remember sitting in an adult Sunday school class in the 60s in which guests representing various alternative beliefs were invited so they could present their views and be questioned. I can't recall most other than the one from SDS, Students for a Democratic Society, an antiwar group which eventually spawned the Weathermen, a radical branch that used terrorist tactics including bombings. (In one 18 month period from 1971-72 there were five bombings a day around the country!)
The point here is that giving voice to other perspectives was all part of what students fought for in the Sixties Free Speech Movement. How strange it is to find students fighting for just the opposite, shutting down speakers whom they disagree with.

ALL THIS TO SAY that for open-minded people seeking to examine both sides of various issues, the pro and con of Health & Medicine, Education, Political Issues, Science & Technology and more, this is a site worth bookmarking: PROCON.ORG

I've not gone through every category here but the topics I reviewed seem to represent, in a fair and intelligent manner, both sides on many of our most controversial issues. 

It's an approach that I like because few of us, if any, can be experts in every category of every issue. Yet somehow we're continually prodded to "take a stand" on all these issues based on whatever media feed we pay attention to. Sometimes people will even pressure you. "How can can you not know what you think on this?" But the truth is, unless you have researched things a bit, how can you not remain on the sidelines? Issues are complex and multi-faceted.

I believe it is useful to listen to the other side. How can we practice discernment if we always wear earplugs? The ability to discern, to weigh things in the balance, to give them their proper weight, is all part of growing up.

Related Links
The Coddling of the American Mind and its associated website.
Bubble-Wrapped Americans: How the U.S. Became Obsessed with Physical and Emotional Safety

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