Monday, September 24, 2007

The Benefit Of My Opinion

Those of you who visit me often are no doubt aware of this fact: I believe that everyone in the whole world will almost certainly benefit from my opinion on pretty much any topic. It's true. It's true that I believe that, and it's even more true that people the world over are probably designing and raising funds for a "Rational Jenn Is Our Hero" statue at this very moment. Maybe I'll even get a song like Jayne! Oh, how exciting! Really, a statue and a theme song would be a dream come true for me, but as I have just mentioned, my opinions and advice are currently a dream come true for the world's population and of course, generations to come. You are so welcome.

I have recently had a chance to enlighten and enrich the lives of many who are not yet familiar with my Rational Jenn Blog Extravaganza, and I will now share this experience here with you. Over the weekend a really disturbing "debate" on one of my secular homeschooling yahoo groups started up. The context was a recent episode of "The View" (which I never watch) where evidently someone--no idea who--made the claim that she didn't know whether the earth was round or flat. Someone on my discussion list defended this idea, saying that "we ONLY know what we are taught" and she repeated this assertion many times. So I responded:

We are not, or rather SHOULD NOT, be the products only of what we've been "taught" as you claim. Each of us has a responsibility to use our minds to draw our own conclusions, no matter who has told us what.

Reminds me of a professor I had in grad school. I was taking an intro to Finance class where many of us were learning the concept of Time Value of Money for the first time. The prof made us solve these lengthy problems by hand, without calculators. People would complain, but each time a complaint was raised, he'd say: "This is tricky stuff. You need to prove to yourself that what I'm saying is true, otherwise this idea--an idea that you will encounter over and over again in your studies--will seem like magic to you." And so we solved these problems by hand until we understood the WHY behind the math. We had proved to ourselves that the concept was true and based in reality. One of the two best professors I ever had--he actually did his job!

People can try to teach us rubbish, but that does not relieve us of the responsibility to use our minds.

So far I've got an enthusiastic response in agreement. I wonder what the original poster will say. I'm not too hopeful, especially since she has already brought up the KKK and other such examples of people who ONLY know what they've been taught.

I should have mentioned that if we are truly only the products of indoctrination, then we are also automatically absolved from responsibility for anything we do, up to and including murder. "But Your Honor, I was TAUGHT that murdering is okay!" "Oh, well in that case, I must respect the diversity of the value system you were taught and the fact that you ONLY know what you were taught. Case Dismissed." Maybe I'll save that nugget o'wisdom for my next response.

Incidentally, the professor I mentioned was quite amazing. I took 4 of his classes in grad school (and beyond). This guy was not just a professor, but also the head of the Finance & Economics Department at the time. In every class I took from him, he insisted that we solved new math concepts by hand. His tests included several questions where we were to show our work. Lots and lots and lots of people hated him for that. But he was very upfront with us. His job was to teach us concepts and the kinds of concepts we were learning required more than just a few buttons on a calculator or an Excel spreadsheet. Each time he put something new up on the board, he'd say, "Now, take minute to write this down and prove it to yourself. Don't believe what I'm saying just because I'm saying it. You need to discover the truth of it for yourself." Oh, I see he's been busy since leaving his position at KSU. Good for him!

Now, back to your regularly scheduled--but obviously more enlightened--day!


Anonymous said...

I feel more whole knowing your opinion Rational Jen. Or rather, seeing it written so nicely.

Did I ever tell you that this is the best blog of all the blogs that I read or have ever read, including my own now-defunct and lost-to-gods-of-crashed-servers blog? Just sayin.


Rational Jenn said...

Oh, you are too kind! One of these years we should try to meet up, because I think we would have LOTS o'fun together!