Informed to be ignorant

By  Anna-Therese Pierlot, Youth Speak News
  • December 5, 2008
“George Bush is so stupid!” remarked one of my friends seated at her desk.

“I know,” agreed another, “he makes even Steven Harper look intelligent!”

“Why is he such an idiot?” I asked. “What does he do that’s so dumb?” After a slight pause, one shrugged her shoulders and replied, “I don’t know, he’s just a jerk.”

Not exactly an informed reply. The truth is, my friends don’t really know why they think Bush is “so stupid.” They have opinions but not from any researched conclusions. As I progress through high school, I’ve begun to wonder where such biases come from, with so little based on reality or reason.

Another day, while discussing a possible guest speaker in global issues class, I suggested we invite our parish priest who is from Colombia and could explain how extreme poverty affected life in his country. However, upon hearing the word “priest,” my Catholic classmates immediately dismissed the idea. It just wasn’t “appropriate” to bring in a Catholic priest, unless he “didn’t bring God into it,” they said. Catholics scared to have a priest mention God in the classroom? These are Catholics who have gone to catechism class, memorized the Ten Commandments and go to church more or less regularly. But they don’t seem to understand the essence of their faith. Bringing up issues of morality makes them irritated, nervous and anxious, as if they were having an illegal conversation.

Combine this with an apparent lack of principles as a basis for one’s opinions and it would appear that our generation is being conditioned to accept what we’re told without examination. We may be being taught what to think instead of how to think. In the classroom it’s not easy to spot the signs: A little annoyance over a moral implication, some empty opinions, nothing that raises questions. But when one steps back and actually examines these little indications, it seems clear that amidst the math and history and science there is something else going on.

We are being informed to be ignorant, conditioned to think without giving a second thought. The presentation of ideas and opinions as facts and the subtle avoidance of principles and morality as the basis of decision-making all influence students to cease using their reason and simply accept “politically correct” ways of thinking. For example, when in a discussion I suggested that abstinence was the main way to tackle the AIDS problem, one member of the group became annoyed, saying that I couldn’t tell people that. Why can’t we tell people that there is such a thing as self-control and living a moral lifestyle? These are just a few of the “messages” being transmitted to students, often without them even noticing: leave God out of it! Morality has nothing to do with real life! Accept what school and the media tell you!

As future world leaders, are we willing to risk having our reason replaced by a pre-determined way of thinking? We need to become aware and re-examine our ways of thinking. If we notice our friends or ourselves holding attitudes for which there is no justification or reason, we cannot afford to be silent. We have to ask “what do we think,” but also “why do we think that?”

(Pierlot, 17, is a Grade 12 student at Morell Regional High School in Morell, P.E.I.)

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