Update from yesterday: I finished that paper in two hours. In fact, I turned it in at 11:30, which was six hours early. It turns out that I had a lot more done than I thought I did.
I had a bad taste in my mouth the entire time I was working on it. The assigned topic was “whether or not children under the age of five should be able to use touch-screen technology”. I finally realized why I had such a hard time with that stupid thing: I didn’t believe a single word I was writing.
See, with topics like the one we were assigned, there isn’t a whole lot of balanced research. Every credible source I found in my first few hours of research said one of two things. According to apparently every educated person and his mother, children should either A) never be allowed to sit in front of a screen (which, by the way, is impossible given our own addiction to screens) or B) only be allowed to use technology of any kind under strict supervision. Essentially, every source I found bashed technology. It was brutal.
I’m not going to get into what I believe about the subject, partially because my views are hard to explain and mostly because I’m sick of thinking about it. The point I want to make is that it took me hours to find a source that said something other than “technology is the enemy”. Hours! Surely there is some inkling of scientific evidence in support of the opposition; otherwise we wouldn’t be so hooked to the things ourselves. It has to be out there, so why is it so stinking hard to find?
I don’t want to sound like a conspiracy theorist here, but I think that free speech isn’t quite free, and it’s our own fault. When there’s an overwhelmingly popular opinion, people are afraid to speak out against it. I love playing devil’s advocate because it helps me to think from multiple perspectives and I think I’m a more educated person for it. Therefore, I often find myself speaking up for the less-popular viewpoint. Therefore, I know from experience that when you’re alone in a corner, you’re a lot more afraid to speak up simply because there’s this overwhelming pressure that comes from the majority to agree with them. And so no opinion but the majority is expressed and we accept that as the only conclusion.
A simple yet touchy example is the implied political indifference in public education. Again, I’m not trying to sound like a crazy person and I’m certainly not trying to undermine the authority of my teachers, but as I was growing up I noticed that most of my teachers tended to favor the left, politically speaking. I happen to lean a little more to the right – and I’m not a gun-waving Klan member or anything, as many of my classmates perceived Republicans to be. But whenever I would state a political belief of mine that clashed with the liberal platform, I was looked at kind of funny. Students in the public school system today aren’t really given freedom of political opinion. Technically, you can believe whatever the hell you want – but to have strong opinions of any kind (especially, God forbid, conservative opinions) is frowned upon and even mocked.
That’s why so many kids my age are wishy-washy about their political beliefs: they didn’t have a chance to speak about their opinions in a free environment where people care about diversity of thought and well-balanced debate. Now that my generation is old enough to vote, that’s going to be a problem at the polls. Democrat, Republican, or Green-Party-Hippie, I’d rather that someone have a strong opinion of some kind than just shrug and say “I don’t care about politics”. Yes you do! There is something on this earth that you care about, and I’m willing to bet that you’re just scared to say it. Have an opinion, dammit!
Imagine how much more intelligent our citizens will be once they learn to speak up, no matter what their opinions are. Yes, there are crazy people out there that have opinions that are, well, crazy (I’m thinking, for example, about that one guy from Carroll County who wants to secede from the rest of the state – you’ll hear more about him from me later). Crazy or not, all opinions are created equal. Factual arguments are another story, but nobody in this country should be afraid to speak their mind or think outside of the box.